David Morrell takes us for a second visit to mid 19th century Victorian London following on the heels of his novel, Murder as a Fine Art. As in the first book, a great deal of research sets the scene in the London and England of that day.
England is immersed in a war against Russia taking place in the Crimea. Due to a cadre of officers that have paid for their commissions and are not competent to command men in battle, the war is going badly for Britain.
A series of reports from a newspaper correspondent have caused the government to fall and the political situation is chaotic. Thomas De Quincey, his daughter Emily and two detectives introduced in Murder as a Fine Art are in London during the political crisis involving the setbacks in the war.
De Quincey and Emily are actual individuals living at the time of the action of the book. De Quincey, known as “The Opium Eater” due to his addiction to laudanum, a pain killer based on opiates, has proven his ability to utilize logic and as much of a scientific method as was available at the time to solve crime. Morrell utilizes an actual plot to assassinate Queen Victoria to set up a scenario involving a criminal that begins to kill persons in the upper ends of society, moving from the lowest end of that segment up to what is deduced to be the Queen herself.
As in the first book, action in London involves descriptions of specific areas from the poorest to the wealthiest and the peoples that populated them. Morrell has the gift of being able to reproduce the information he found in his detailed research to bring the reader into the period and the action described. The identity of the murderer is arrived at via exhaustive investigation by De Quincey and his associates. We follow his logic throughout the book in moving from one criminal act to the next until the criminal is unmasked. The ending is a satisfactory sequence, and appears to set up at least another book involving the characters in the first two books. An absorbing read amid the realization of how well Morrell has described the era and the events, and the probable thoughts and conversations that might have actually taken place.
3/15 Paul Lane
INSPECTOR OF THE DEAD by David Morrell. Mulholland Books (March 24, 2015). ISBN: 978-0316323932. 352p.