Inspector of the Dead is Morrell's second book featuring Thomas De Quincy, whose Confessions of an Opium Eater was sensational when published. His acquaintances included Wordsworth, Coleridge, Lamb, and others; Edgar Allan Poe, Baudelaire, and Gogol were all influenced by his writings.
The dedication to Judith Flanders intrigued me immediately, as I had just read A Murder of Magpies by Flanders (read and reviewed in February). Morrell's appreciation was directed at Flanders' nonfiction works about the Victorian period.
I haven't read the first book in Morrell's series, Murder as a Fine Art, but I have it on my list. The title is based on De Quincy's three-part essay, "On Murder Considered as One of the Fine Arts."
The setting for Inspector of the Dead is London in 1855, as the incompetence of the Crimean War causes the fall of the government. Aside from De Quincy, there are several other characters from real life, including Lord Palmerston, Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, and William Howard Russell, considered one of the first modern war correspondents. All are treated fictionally, of course, but I found William Howard Russell a fascinating character based on Wikipedia information. De Quincey's daughter Emily is also a character, and an engaging one. Her fictional character is independent, intelligent, and always concerned about her father's health and dependence on the laudanum that is his constant companion.
Ryan and Becker of Scotland Yard were involved in the first book and play an important role in this one. Merging fiction and reality, Morrell's plot revolves around the many attempts on Victoria's life, connecting all with a revenge motive.
The murders are (in my opinion) unnecessarily gruesome, too plentiful, and too graphic, and yet I remained absorbed from first to last. I especially enjoyed the way Morrell was able to weave fact and fiction, creating an atmospheric glimpse into the Victorian era.
About the Author: "David Morrell is an Edgar, Anthony, and Macavity nominee and recipient of the prestigious career-achievement Thriller Master award from the International Thriller Writers organization. He has written twenty-nine works of fiction and been translated into thirty languages. He is a former literature professor at the University of Iowa and received his PhD from Pennsylvania State University."
Read in February. Blog post scheduled for March 3, 2015.
Historic Mystery. March 24, 2015. Print length: 352 pages.