Wednesday, 20 May 2015

Inspector Of The Dead.

Back to the fog bound night time streets of London this time in 1885 and in the company of the Great British Eater Of Opium himself Thomas De Quincey. The novel is Inspector Of The Dead by David Morrell and is a gripping page turner of a mystery. Some prominent and successful citizens are being murdered and their bodies displayed in gruesome ways intended to send a shiver down the spine of Empire. Britain is in turmoil, its government hanging by a thread due to press revelations concerning their mismanagement of the war in Crimea. Victoria and her consort Prince Albert sit uneasily upon a powder keg of a throne and anarchy seems inevitable. enter stage right the enigmatic figure of Thomas De Quincey the much misunderstood and socially revilled author and essayist whose occasional use of opiates at an earlier stage of his life had led to full blown addiction. His book the semi-autobiographical Confessions Of An English opium Eater which detailed his daily existence as an addict of Laudanum and the profound impact this had on his life;2..eloquent opium that with that thy potent rhetoric stealest away the purposes of wrath, for one night givest back the hopes of his youth, and hands washed clean of blood..."This brilliant but tormented man becomes the prism through which we see the motivations of the killer. De Quincey's daughter Emily also emerges from the narrative a fully formed character bristling with humanity and a natural forward thinking. Her natural intelligence and gentle but strong sense of morality a virtue that enables her to bear the weight of her fathers demons and her fathers genius.
             David Morrell brings Victorian society to life once more( at least for whatever time you remain within his prose.)He delights and deceives in equal measure and even manages to make the horrendous killer somewhat sympathetic. He is no Edmund Dante but he is a terribly wronged man who is now prepared to burn the world in his thirst for revenge.
              Yet strangely none of it feels implausible, actually it feels as real as history does. Morrell has written a powerful and engaging thriller where nothing happens that could not have taken place in some alternate reality. Not even the cruelty that sets the dominoes tumbling, Falling all through the years with a terrible outcome a real possibility. history tells us that certain things never happened. We know Queen Victoria was not assassinated. It is a fiction, a tale written to enthuse and perhaps entertain and amuse.  Everything that history should be.