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Tuesday, March 03, 2015

Inspector of the Dead by David Morrell

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.

NetGalley/Mulholland Books

Historic Mystery.  March 24, 2015.  Print length:  352 pages.


  1. I remember seeing the previous book and thinking I might read it. This one sounds good. I do like the Victorian era for mysteries. All that fog and cobblestones and Jack the Ripper. :-)

    1. I found the characters interesting and the "fog and cobblestones" are always good for me!

  2. I have Murder as a Fine Art is to read still. This sounds like a good one. I appreciate the warning about how graphic it is--I'm not as tolerant of that as I once was, but knowing up front makes it easier.

    You wrote: "I especially enjoyed the way Morrell was able to weave fact and fiction, creating an atmospheric glimpse into the Victorian era." Which is why I especially want to read this! :-)

    1. The murders were too much, but I enjoyed learning about the Crimean War fiasco and other historic details. In grade school, I remember how "The Charge of the Light Brigade" made me cry.

  3. This sounds very good! I'm intrigued with the mystery, and most of all the writing and the Victorian setting. Will have to check this out as well as Murder as a Fine Art.

    1. It was interesting in many ways. An imaginary look at historic characters and events always makes history more personal. DeQuincey was a strange man in real life--interesting to imagine him in this context.