Review of “Murder as a Fine Art” by David Morrell

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Author: David Morrell


Publication Date: May, 2013


Publisher:  Mulholland Books


ISBN: 978-0-316-21679-1


Agent: Dystel & Goderich Literary Management

Source of Book: I borrowed this book from my local public library. I had never read any of David Morrell’s works, and was impressed by his presentations at Thrillerfest. He is best known for his debut novel “First Blood” in which he introduced the character Rambo.

Blurb: Thomas De Quincey, infamous for his memoir, “Confessions of an English Opium-Eater, is the major suspect in a series of ferocious mass murders identical to the ones that terrorized London forty-three years earlier.

The blueprints for the killings seems to be De Quincey’s essay “On Murder Considered as One of the Fine Arts.” Desperate to clear his name but crippled by opium addiction, De Quincey is aided by his devoted daughter Emily and a pair of determined Scotland Yard detectives.

In “Murder as a Fine Art”, David Morrell plucks De Quincey, Victorian London, and the Ratcliffe Highway murders from history. Fogbound streets become a battleground between a literary star and a brilliant murderer whose lives are linked by secrets long buried but never forgotten.

(Source of Blurb: Inside dust cover jacket)

Review:  “Murder as a Fine Art” shows a true master at work. David Morrell, author of “First Blood”, which introduced the Rambo character, is a scholar as well as an author. This book is as much of a learning experience as it is a thriller. Morrell teaches us a lot about Victorian England, and this was, for me, the best part of the book. In addition, Morrel uses a complex story structure, writing a good bit of it in third person omniscient point of view, seldom used currently, but widely used in Victorian times. He intersperses this with some first person point of view using a strong female character via excerpts from her diary. I learned a great deal about Victorian England, as well as a lot about the craft of writing.

I was a little less impressed with the plot, however. Morrell starts his first chapter with a very vivid description of several murders including the killing of a small infant. The book certainly has a dark side to it. The story eventually explains the psychological reasons behind this. I found it intriguing that the protagonist was an opium-addled author who outwits a much younger and stronger villain, but towards the end of the book, the cleverness of the protagonist and the ease with which he eventually defeats the villain were a little too much for me. Please do not get me wrong, this is a very good thriller, just a little too much cleverness and too much psychology for my taste.

If you have the stomach to get by the description of the gruesome murders in the first chapter, this is an entertaining, well-written thriller. The real strength of “Murder as a Fine Art” is the rich detail of the setting, Victorian England. The book is incredibly well-researched, and Morrell’s use of third-person omniscient point of view is a great example of a master writer at work. If you like your thrillers laced with a great deal of very pleasurable education, and you have an interest in Victorian England, you will enjoy this thoroughly.

Rating: 4.0/5.0

Link to Author’s Website:

Purchase Link:  Murder as a Fine Art


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