(The first book in the Thomas De Quincey Mystery series)
You've heard of Jack the Ripper, read everything about Sherlock Holmes, now, there's a new figure in town. Thomas De Quincy and his sensational works are unknown to most, and yet he is probably one of the most fascinating people to come from Victorian England. Many of his essays shocked society, but they also represented a new chapter in literature. "Confessions of an English Opium-Eater" and "On Murder Considered as One of the Fine Arts" are the basis for this outstanding historical thriller. Morrell's choice opens a new window into the lives of the Victorian English. Under the carefully sculpted face of propriety lies emotions. To admit to them was considered scandalous, to show them in public, embarrassing. De Quincy and his daughter are open-minded, intelligent people. Emily stands out for her forward-thinking attitude towards women's roles, the responsibilities of society, and practicalities, while her father openly admits to his mistakes, and the sad past which influences him. Their presentation speaks to how much care Morrell must have put into research, for we latch onto their thoughts, actions, and manner of speech. Sadly, other characters fall to the sidelines when compared to these vibrant voices. Morrell plausibly weaves together the Ratcliffe Highway murders to the historical figure of De Qunicy, the mystery takes us for a few good turns as motives prove false, until it concludes in a satisfactory way. As Morrell states in his afterword, he wrote the book in the style of a nineteenth-century novel. Since we don't know this reason at the beginning though, the inclusion of first-person journal entries amidst the majority third-person narrative will throw some readers a bit, but you come to accept it as you read. Little things aside, this is a must read for fans of historical British mysteries and thrillers. Here's hoping that this is the start to a Thomas De Quincy canon.
I thoroughly enjoyed this Victorian English mystery!
Outstanding read. A Victorian mystery like none you've ever seen. Set in London 1854, you're right there with the fog, the smells, the dirt and the poverty. The characters are well crafted and there's a strong female who is as brilliant as the male investigators. Don't miss this one.
I didn't realize that this would be a historical novel. Truly you will be swamped with the "facts" of living in London in 1854 (like why cops were called bobbies or peelers). The story was actually pretty good, much like a Sherlock Holmes mystery. But, at times these "facts" would consume the page and distract from the thread. Good, but not great. Still an enjoyable mystery.
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