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Murder as a Fine Art
on 11 May 2013
This novel set in Victorian London uses Thomas De Quincey, controversial author of "Confessions of an English Opium-Easter" and "On Murder Considered as One of the Fine Arts" as the central character in this novel. De Quincey's essay, "On Murder..." dramatised the infamous Ratcliffe Highway killings which terrorised the country in 1811, when the inhabitants of both a shop and a tavern were murdered viciously. Now it is 1854 and De Quincey and his daughter, Emily, are staying in London at the request of an unknown benefactor, who has arranged lodging for them. However, when there is an apparently motiveless murder of an entire family which mirrors that of the Ratcliffe killings, De Quincey's knowledge of the crimes makes him a suspect.
"There is no such thing as forgetting..." wrote De Quincey and he must go back in time to discover why his work and reputation are being used against him. In many ways this is an excellent novel - Detective Inspector Sean Ryan and Constable Becker are great characters, as is De Quincey's daughter. However, I do agree strongly with the previous reviewer - with the obvious research that has gone into this novel, Americanisms like "cookie" and "sidewalk" jar horribly. Also, it did sometimes seem that the author was insistent on using every bit of research and side stories, such as that featuring Dr John Snow and the cholera epidemic, did not also fit the storyline. Overall, though, this is an exciting read, with past crimes intruding on the present, conspiracy in high places and a fast moving plot.