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Victorian Violence

posted by: July 26, 2013 - 7:55am

Cover art for Murder as a Fine ArtLove learning new things while also reading a page-turning historical thriller? Check out David Morrell’s Murder as a Fine Art.  Set in Victorian England, Morrell’s “hero” is the essayist Thomas De Quincey, author of Confessions of an Opium Eater.


A heinous crime is committed in 1854, England. The gruesome methods of the crime are lifted directly from a De Quincey essay, “On Murder Considered as One of the Fine Arts.” As it happens, De Quincey and his daughter Emily were in England at the time of the murder. He suddenly becomes a prime suspect. With the help of a couple of Scotland Yard detectives, it will be up to De Quincey and Emily to prove his innocence and find the killer.


De Quincey is a fascinating historical figure. He wrote about the inner psyche decades before Sigmund Freud and was surrounded by artistic friends such as William Wordsworth and Samuel Taylor Coleridge.


Murder as a Fine Art is one part novel and one part history lesson. Scotland Yard was still relatively new, and investigative techniques were still rather primitive. Morrell gives his readers a real sense of Victorian England, with its straight-laced exterior hiding a dark underbelly of vice.


For additional historical thrillers set in the Victorian era, check out The Alienist by Caleb Carr and Alex Grecian’s The Yard. For an excellent nonfiction treatment of crime in the Victorian era, see Kate Summerscale’s The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher: A Shocking Murder and the Undoing of a Great Victorian Detective.


Revised: July 26, 2013