Thomas has issues with his guardians who appear unwilling to release funds to him so that he can do what he wants to do; he has some extraordinary abilities but in other ways appears to suffer from arrested development. So, at fifteen, he runs away and after a few months is in the capital city of his country discovering the seamy side of life. Later on in the tale he has contact with journalists and a couple of characters are strung up but my tenuous comparison with Steig Larsson's Millennium trilogy pretty much ends there. De Quincey is a much harder read for the average Twenty-First century English speaker (for `The Girl' books in translation, that is).
Four decades ago I moved into a house with a couple of friends and `The Confessions' were one of a few books left in a sideboard, I only managed a couple of chapters but remembered fine descriptions of the months walking in North Wales (and twenty years later I even stayed at the Youth Hostel near the start of the Rhyd Ddu path up Snowden where De Quincey rested on his journey). That edition also had some evocative Victorian line drawings but I have been unable to trace it or the illustrator, perhaps some of De Quincey's other work was incorporated into it. The edition under review has very little of that journey but the addition of Suspiria De Profundis and, especially, The English Mail-Coach make up a little for that. However, for me the original effect of reading `The Confessions' was an increase of my disenchantment with intoxication and a stimulus to take up long-distance walking, a less likely outcome for readers of the new edition.
Robert Morrison's notes are copious and informative, and will be enlightening for readers going to, or coming back from, the Bible or Paradise Lost or Wordsworth amongst others. There are one or two curiosities (why note an unremarkable, to me, word like exasperate to the OED but leave umbrageous or prelibation unnoted?) At times the tone of comment seems uncharitable to De Quincey but we must put this down to academic rigour. For the student this is an excellent edition but some general readers will find De Quincey exasperating. Nevertheless there is something in the pace of the work which, despite the unexpected and perhaps even tiresome flights of flowery language, builds to a number of remarkable and distinctive passages dissimilar to anything else I have read - I just wish I could find that Victorian edition that I left with the house I moved out of all those years ago.