cover image Murder as a Fine Art

Murder as a Fine Art

David Morrell. Little, Brown/Mulholland, $25.99 (288p) ISBN 978-0-316-21679-1

A killer copying the brutal 1811 Ratcliffe Highway murders terrorizes 1854 London in this brilliant crime thriller from Morrell (First Blood). The earlier slaughters, attributed to a John Williams, were the subject of a controversial essay by Thomas De Quincey entitled “On Murder Considered as One of the Fine Arts.” A man who considers himself an “artist of death” duplicates the first set of Williams’s killings by using a mallet and a knife to dispatch a shopkeeper, his wife, their two children (including an infant), and a servant. The similarities send the police after De Quincey, who, aided by his able daughter Emily, must vindicate himself and catch the killer. Morrell tosses in the political machinations of Lord Palmerston, then Home Secretary, who has been promoting revolution in Europe to assure Great Britain’s political dominance. Everything works—the horrifying depiction of the murders, the asides explaining the impact of train travel on English society, nail-biting action sequences—making this book an epitome of the intelligent page-turner. Agent: Jane Dystel, Dystel & Goderich Literary Management. (May)