Inspector of the Dead, a Victorian era thriller with an opium-addicted hero

In 1821 Thomas De Quincey published his memoir, Confessions of an English Opium-Eater. Even though the book sold well, and De Quincey would go on to write other essays with insightful pre-Freudian psychological observations, his life was marred by drug addiction and financial debt.

De Quincey died in 1859, but in 2013 well-known author David Morrell brought him back to life in his historical fiction thriller Murder as a Fine Art, and again in this year's Inspector of the Dead.

Both books are murder mysteries set in Victorian England, and Morrell has taken great delight in researching and presenting the details of daily life for the rich and poor of that era. In both novels De Quincey is a Holmes-ian amateur detective with an extraordinary eye for detail and a keen understanding of human psychology. In Inspector of the Dead, De Quincey and his proto-feminist daughter Emma meet Queen Victoria herself when it becomes clear the Queen is the next likely victim in a series of gruesomely elaborate murders of rich and powerful members of the government. The De Quinceys and a pair of Scotland Yard detectives are unofficially tasked with protecting the Queen and catching the unknown killer.

Morrell, best known as the author of the Rambo novels (which I have not read but am now thinking I should), knows how to write an exciting page-turner, giving it enough historical background, detail, and interesting characters to make it a fulfilling read. I felt like I was really in foggy old England, with snotty aristocrats treating poor people like animals, Bobbies waving their clackers, and horse hoove's clacking in front of Hansom cabs.

I have not yet read the first De Quincey novel, Murder as a Fine Art, but I'm reading it now and it looks like it's going to be as good as Inspector of the Dead. (You don't need to read the first novel to enjoy the second.)

Inspector of the Dead