Heilbroner's "worldly philosophers' is indeed a hard act to follow. I loved the prose in that book and the style really inspires the reader. However, Backhouse should not be discounted just because his style does not seek to achieve the same aim.
What he lacks in poetry, Backhouse makes up for in clarity of prose, communicating very complex ideas in straightfoward language. He avoids the temptation, common to so many histories, to make it simply the history of great men (e.g. Adam Smith, Marx and Keynes) and focuses more on the evolution of ideas. In so doing, he proves that no idea is truly original, no revolution truly without precedent. So, if you truly want to come to grips with the ideas of economics themselves, then this is the book for you. Given the effort spent on ideas alone, you might lose track of the great storytelling you might be hoping to find.
Unlike New Ideas from Dead Economists, this book does not shy away from the complexities of the ideas involved. This makes it slightly less accessible for the newcomer to Economics but rewarding for those who will want to go back to it again and again. I read this book before taking my undergrad degree in Economics and still go back to it for its insights.
All in all, this is truly a well-written history of economic thought amongst many titles which merely claim to be.