|Thomas De Quincey|
It is another of De Quincey's writings, On Murder Considered as One of the Fine Arts (1827) that Morrell uses as a launchpad for his 2013 novel, the first in a series, Murder as a Fine Art. De Quincey wrote about the infamous Ratcliffe Highway killings of 1811. Morrell imagines that, decades later, the crimes by the Ratcliffe Highway killer are repeated, almost death for death, as if to rub them in De Quincey's face.
Morrell, a literature professor before he became a best-selling author of thrillers (beginning with First Blood), became a Thomas De Quincey scholar before beginning this series of novels, and it shows in the detail he provides about De Quincey and his times. Also, Morrell provides his readers with a short history lesson at the beginning of virtually every chapter, writing about the London police force, the popularity of laudanum as a pain reliever in De Quincey's day, the spread of cholera in London in the middle of the 19th century and other topics relating to his story.
Murder as a Fine Art may be a violent novel, especially in the initial chapter, but it is an unusually fine mystery, one that may inspire some of us to seek out some of Thomas De Quincey's work.