- Hardcover: 342 pages
- Publisher: Mulholland Books; 1st edition (March 24, 2015)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0316323934
- ISBN-13: 978-0316323932
- Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.4 x 9.5 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 121 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #778,362 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Inspector of the Dead Hardcover – March 24, 2015
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The Amazon Book Review
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From School Library Journal
This follow-up to Murder as a Fine Art (2014) is set in 1855 while England is in the midst of the Crimean War. It opens with The Opium-Eater, Thomas De Quincey, and his daughter Emily leaving town, but a gruesome murder during a church service, seemingly connected to a rebel group committed to killing Queen Victoria, changes their plans. De Quincey is still addicted to laudanum, yet his skill at seeing connections, patterns, and possibilities that others miss is as strong as ever. The murders continue, each one more gruesome and artistically staged than the last. Teaming up again with Inspector Ryan and Detective Sergeant Becker, the De Quinceys work to untangle the motivation behind the murders and find the killer. The story is enriched by the weaving of historical facts into the narrative: the grinding failures of the Crimean War; the rigid, oppressive class divisions in London; and the multiple assassination attempts on Queen Victoria's life are all integral to the plot. The inclusion of some history of crime scene investigation practices enriches the story. Although it is a sequel, the book also stands alone. Teens will enjoy contrasting the class and culture stereotypes as well as expectations of women of the time with current-day ideas. VERDICT The narrative's drama, tension, and plot twists make this a likely hit with readers looking for grisly murder mysteries or compelling historical fiction.—Carla Riemer, Claremont Middle School, CA
PRAISE FOR INSPECTOR OF THE DEAD:
"Taut, atmospheric . . . Morrell brings the period to vivid life with solid research and fascinating Victorian details. . . . Grade: A-"―Michelle Ross, Cleveland Plain Dealer
"Morrell's narrative is clever and layered. . . . Psychology and back story have always figured in Morrell's considerable output of thrillers, including his landmark First Blood. In the De Quincey stories, these narrative tools seem fully mastered."―Bill Kohlhaase,
"An exciting page-turner . . . A fulfilling read"―Mark Frauenfelder, BoingBoing.net
"Morrell weaves a true web of lies, secrets, and cunning schemes that gives readers the sense that they are actually living and breathing the air of historical England. . . . Morrell yet again shows that his character creation is second to none, and the pace will have readers losing sleep by telling themselves, 'Just one more chapter.'"―Suspense Magazine
"Blends historical fact and 1855 London ambience with thriller-laced fiction in a feat of brilliant storytelling"―Mark Rubinstein, Huffington Post
"Ripping good fun at every delicious twist and turn . . . De Quincey makes for an offbeat but entirely credible protagonist in the Sherlock Holmes mold. . . . It's a potent formula, with genuine thrills and a satisfying mystery leavened with well-observed and meticulously researched details of Victorian life and attitudes."―Kirkus Reviews
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"Inspector of the Dead" follows "Murder as a Fine Art" by about two months. The same main characters from the first book are in the second, supplemented by both fictional and real characters. Thomas de Quincey - that real-life laudanum-saturated writer - along with his daughter, Emily, are still in London, after having solved previous crimes. They're grudgingly "put up" by Lord Palmerston at his house, along with the two Scotland Yard detectives, Ryan and Becker, who had been injured previously. One Sunday in 1855, the four attended services at St James's - the local Mayfair church - and were placed in Lord Palmerston's private pew. They witnessed a terribly bloody murder in the adjacent pew where a woman is found dead, with her throat cut. But Lady Cosgrove's murder is not the only one that day; several people at her home - including her husband - were found grievously murdered.
More murders occur and messages left on the bodies allude to "Young England", a group thought behind some assassination attempts of Queen Victoria in the early 1840's. Is someone trying to assassinate the Queen fifteen years later and what do the cries and pleadings of a young Irish boy trying to find help for his imprisoned mother and his sick father and sister in 1840 have to do with the current murder spree? And this is all against the backdrop of the badly-handled Crimean War and the falling apart of the Liberal government of Lord Aberdeen. In the crisis, Victoria is forced to ask Palmerston - whom she detests - to form a new government, and be on guard for her life.
David Morrell does not write "cozy" mysteries. Death is frequent and is never gentle. Those readers looking for a "pleasant diversion" will be sorely disappointed by "Inspector of the Dead". But readers looking for historical relevancy - in the criminal, political, and personal - and not afraid of a rising body count - will enjoy this book. I don't think its essential to have read "Murder as a Fine Art" first, but I'd suggest you do so. The characters of Thomas de Quincey and Emily are so interesting that having read the first book might be an advantage in reading the second one.
Thomas de Quincey is very Google-able. He was an erudite man, friend of Wordsworth and Coleridge, author of many pages of writing, most now lost, but his most popular work is CONFESSIONS OF AN OPIUM EATER, which helped popularize Victorian "sensation" literature such as that written by Mary Elizabeth Braddon (LADY AUDLEY'S SECRET, etc.). De Quincey had a longtime addiction to opium and author David Morrell uses that aspect of him to posit that his laudanum use enhanced his wits against villains and also caused him to have a better understanding of the subconscious and the subliminal.
Aiding and abetting De Quincey in solving mysteries is his corset-shunning, bloomers-wearing daughter Emily and Scotland Yard inspectors Ryan and Becker. It's 1855 as this story begins with the rather spectacular murders of Lady and Lord Cosgrove and their household servants, with a message left behind indicating the murderer's deep dissatisfaction with the government and social order and a hint that an assassination attempt on Queen Victoria might possibly be in the works.
It's, of course, up to this intrepid quartet to figure it all out and there's gruesome murder galore along the way. The action is pretty much nonstop and the historical tidbits dropped along the way are interesting and informative. Also the inclusion of many real-life historical figures such as Lord Palmerston, journalist William Russell, Commissioner Mayne, Dr. John Snow, Queen Victoria and Prince Albert adds to the verisimilitude of the fictional story.
This isn't great literature and the writing is not excellent, although it is quite competent, but it is an entertaining and exciting read so I've given it a 4-star (I-like-it) rating within its historical mystery genre. To be a 5-star read in the genre it would have needed better character development, especially of De Quincey and Emily. I didn't see more insight into their characters in this Book Two than I'd already received in Book One. And one more aspect of the books I don't quite see as useful is the moments when the author breaks from 3rd-person POV to continue the story in Emily's 1st-person journal account. This alternation does not add anything to the story's flow but if you read the author's Afterword (and you should. It's quite informative) you'll see why he wanted to do it. Now as for whether this device was successful here, I'm not sure.
However, as I've said, this is an entertaining, interesting, and informative adventure and a good escape read. I'm looking forward to reading the series' conclusion in November.