INSPECTOR OF THE DEAD by David Morrell
A few months after solving another crime in London Thomas De Quincy, his daughter Emily and two Scotland Yard detectives are still living in the home of Lord Palmerston. The Lord has quickly become tired of hosting the group and hopes to have them all out of his house the following day. In his jubilance at being rid of them, especially the “opium eater” De Quincy, he offers them the use of his private pew for that day’s Sunday church services. Oh, if only he had known … while a war hero who is being honoured at the services enters the church Lady Cosgrove drops dead in her private pew clutching a mysterious note in her hand. The note contains only a name. Indeed, she was elderly but a slit throat is definitely not a natural death. Witnessing the scene Thomas De Quincy’s skills of deduction are once again awakened. When the gruesome deaths of the rest of the Cosgrove family and staff are discovered it becomes quite clear that Lord Palmerston might not be rid of his unwelcome guests as quickly as he had thought.
While trying to puzzle out the “locked room” murder of Lady Cosgrove another prominent Victorian family is found murdered in their homes and another killed at a public park, each of them clutching the same mysterious note. Written on the notes are the names of men who attempted to assassinate Queen Victoria or the words “Young England”. With the country on its knees because of the Crimean War and, obviously no upper class persons safe in their homes or in public, could the Queen’s life again be in danger? De Quincy and his entourage are bound and determined not only to find out but to stop that from happening at all costs.
In this second instalment in his planned “Opium Eater” trilogy Mr. Morrell takes his readers on another suspense filled chase through the streets of mid-1800’s London.
While Mr. Morrell’s best known work is probably “First Blood” he has also made a name for himself writing modern day thrillers such as the “Brotherhood of the Rose” trilogy, I think he has a true talent for writing historical fiction. His research is impeccable which makes reading this series not only entertaining but quite educational as well. Totally enthralled as I turned the pages I did manage to tear myself away long enough to jot down a few interesting tidbits in order to look up more information later.
While watching “Creation” – a film about Charles Darwin’s nervous breakdown – a random mention of De Quincy whetted Mr. Morrell’s appetite to learn more about this intriguing historical figure. Mr. Morrell describes his research as “tumbling down the Victorian rabbit hole” and states that “To cross an ocean and go back more than a century and a half required research equivalent to earning a doctorate about London in the 1850’s.” His research shows, as does his writing ability, as each scene drips in fog and smog, the language and cadence of speech seems perfect and even the style of the book is “Victorian”. With a few liberties taken to move the story along, because this is fiction after all, the story contains accurate dates and events and is filled to the brim with interesting well-known and obscure historical figures.
Although, as I mentioned, this is the second book in the planned trilogy it could easily be read as a stand alone. But beware; you will want to pick up the first book after reading this one.
I highly recommend this book to readers of historical fiction.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR (from the book cover)
David Morrell was born in Kitchener, Ontario, Canada. As a teenager, he became a fan of the classic television series Route 66 about two young men in a Corvette convertible driving across the country in search of themselves. The scripts by Stirling Silliphant so impressed Morrell that he decided to become a writer. “First Blood” the “father” of modern action novels was published in 1972 while Morrell was a professor in the English Department at the University of Iowa. He taught there from 1970 to 1986, simultaneously writing other novels, many of them international bestsellers.
More information can be found at www.davidmorrell.net, where you can also see images of Thomas De Quincy, his daughter Emily, and the fascinating Victorian locations featured in “Inspector of the Dead”.
I was fortunate enough to attend an author event with David Morrell a few years ago. Pictures and my impressions can be found on my blog