Inspector of the Dead by David Morrell

Just finished reading Inspector of the Dead.  I did get off to a bit of shaky start with this before I managed to get fully immersed but then it did hold my attention most successfully.

Set during the reign of Queen Victoria Inspector of the Dead is a crime/mystery story with a protagonist consumed with the desire for vengeance.  The story is set during the Crimean War with many of the events, dates and places being based on real events.

The story gets off to a pretty immediate start with the death of a lady from the upper echelons of polite society – murdered in cold blood and apparently in full view of everyone attending Church!  From there onwards the murder of society’s most prominent figures seems to spiral upwards and each death seems to deliver a grim message.

I’m not clear as to why this was a slow starter for me – it certainly wasn’t due to the lack of action or pacing.  Maybe there was just too much going on and the police and others seemed to be running around like headless chickens – on reflection I think that was a very cunning ploy by the author to instil in the reader the same feelings of chaos and mayhem that the murderer was instilling in the people of London. At the time though I confess I was getting slightly irritated for some inexplicable reason.

Anyway, clearly I got over the feeling, as one minute I was considering not reading and the next I found myself nicely on the hook and turning the pages pdq.

As I mentioned above the main thrust of the story revolves around the desire for revenge.  The victims start to deliver a picture of intent and it isn’t long before it becomes clear to those in authority that the Queen will be the final target.

Apparently this is the second book in the Thomas DeQuincey series – I haven’t read the first but I don’t think this was detrimental at all as the author has a pleasing style and the characters and place are easily conjured and each book is self contained.

The main character of course is DeQuincey.  DeQuincey was notorious during the Victorian era – not only for writing a number of successful and revealing books but also for his prolific consumption of opium – for which he became known as ‘the opium eater’.  Whether this habit gives him an increased clarity of mind or whether it simply increases his imagination is debatable by society but nobody can deny that he has a knack for looking at things in a logical fashion and cutting to the heart of the matter.  The other characters are DeQ’s daughter Emily and two of Scotland Yard’s finest in Ryan and Becker.  There are other characters on the outskirts but these are the main focus – along with the killer of course.

I can see that this would be an enjoyable series to read, just to read a standalone in a series is never as satisfying as reading from the beginning and picking up important details about the character and watch them develop and expand as you read is part of the enjoyment of a series.  In that respect I would definitely continue with DeQuincey to see what comes next.  I liked Emily – she knows her own mind and she’s not afraid to follow her own instincts even if that singles her out from the norm.

This book has a good pace, there are plenty of random little facts thrown in for good measure and a good build up of tension.

In terms of criticisms – well, I think it misses a trick in terms of using the Victorian era to better effect.  It’s one of those periods in time that can have such a dark and creepy feel,  Slums, dark alleys, pea soup fog, footsteps echoing behind a person – I didn’t quite get the spook factor that I would have liked in that respect although there was one particular scene where the murderer has literally closeted himself inside somebody’s house which was a bit chilling to say the least and definitely shone the spotlight on the murderer in all his incandescent rage!  I was practically shouting at the book ‘run, get out’, ‘fly you fools’!!

All in all, after not the best start, I enjoyed this.  It had that wonderful, over the top detective type feel that you would probably enjoy if reading a Sherlock Holmes story – where the baddies are just delightfully ‘bad’ and seem to be able to accomplish anything.  Plus, I hand it to DM – i didn’t figure out the identify of the murderer – well, until about two seconds before the author decided to reveal it!

If you fancy a good murder/detective story with a crazy madman bent on destruction then I would recommend this.

I received a copy of this through the publishers courtesy of Netgalley for which my thanks.  The above is my own opinion.

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7 Responses to “Inspector of the Dead by David Morrell”

  1. DJ (@MyLifeMyBooksMyEscape)

    I own Murder As A Fine Art, and was this close to starting it last week – actually sat down and everything with it – but I wanted a shorter read, so I went with Pirate Latitudes instead (big mistake). I’m reading Soda Pop Soldiers right now, but this kinda has me in the mood for a good murder/mystery… I’m going to take your review as a sign, and make sure I read Murder As A Fine Art next

    • lynnsbooks

      Ahh, cool, well it might have took me a few pages to get into but I really got into this. I think it would make a good series.
      Lynn 😀

  2. Lisa (@TenaciousReader)

    I’ve seen this but had no idea it was the second in a series (even if it doesn’t matter 🙂 ) Nice review!

  3. jenclair

    I’ve read this one and need to read the first. Wish there had been fewer and less gory murders, but loved the idea of making a series featuring “the opium eater.” I was always curious about DeQuincy, so reading Inspector of the Dead was an interesting experience. I especially enjoyed all of the real history Morrell included.

    • lynnsbooks

      Yeah, I agree, I was really curious about DeQuincy and enjoyed all the real historical aspects.
      Lynn 😀

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