Posted in Book Review

Murder As A Fine Art

This ‘Fine Art‘ thing describes the Ratcliffe Highway murders. The Opium-Eater went on and on about them.

The bloodiest thing I ever read. Gave me nightmares.

He piled on so many gruesome details, it’s like he was there.

— David Morell, Murder as a Fine Art

This was a random pick from the bookstore. I can’t remember the last time I simply picked up a book from the shelf and read the synopsis and liked it and decided to read it without doing any further research.

I remember when I was in 5th grade (the time I developed my love for reading books without photos on them. a.k.a. novels), I will always ask my grandparents to accompany me to the bookstore (we used to have one just walking distance from our house) and they’d allow me 30 minutes to 1 hour just scanning all the books in the shelves and reading each of the synopsis of the books that caught my attention.

We didn’t have smartphones then. So we didn’t have Goodreads, Twitter, Instagram, or blogs to see how other readers reacted to said book.

Sure, some said “New York Times Bestseller”. But as a kid, what do I care if it’s a bestseller?

Anyway, my point is: I picked this book up the old way. The synopsis was so good, I knew I had to read it. I don’t need to hear BookTubers to hype it up for me or see the cover of the book splashed all over Bookstagram. I just felt like the book was for me.

And I wasn’t wrong.

The Ratcliffe Highway murders of 1811 were the most notorious mass killings in their day. Never fully explained, they brought London and all of England to the verge of panic.

Forty-three years later, the equally notorious Thomas De Quincey returns to London. Along with his Confessions of an English Opium-Eater, he is infamous for a scandalous essay about the killings: “On Murder Considered as One of the Fine Arts.”

Days after his arrival, a family is killed in the same horrific way as the earlier murders. It seems someone is using the essay as an inspiration—and a blueprint. And De Quincey himself is the obvious suspect. Aided by his brilliant daughter Emily and two determined Scotland Yard detectives, he must uncover the truth before more blood is shed and London itself becomes the next victim.

In Murder as a Fine Art, gaslit London becomes a battleground between a literary star and a demented murderer. Their lives are linked by secrets long buried but never forgotten.

You’ll believe you’re in 1854 London.

Do you see what I mean by the synopsis making you want to read the book???

If not, let me break it down for you:

  1. Thomas De Quincey is a drug addict, author, and suspect of a series of murders
  2. A series of murders were committed in 1811 but now similar murders, down to the minute details of every crime, were repeated in 1854
  3. Thomas De Quincey’s published work regarding the first murders became as a guide to the murderer at present time

Doesn’t that intrigue you? It intrigues me!

I love true crime murder mystery novels. I even have this book called 501 Most Notorious Crimes by Paul Donnelly. It’s this compilation of a lot of famous criminals, their personal lives, profiles, and detail to their committed crimes. They’re sectioned into crimes to like robbery, murder, mass murder, etc.

Believe me when I say that I got that book as a gift for myself on my birthday! It even served as my bedtime stories for a time. But I’ve since finished reading all of them.

If that doesn’t tell you my love and fascination for true crime stories, I don’t know what will.


Murder as a Fine Art by David Morrell was definitely a great read! Usually I try to avoid Victorian era set books because the language and society of that time is difficult for me to grasp. But this book read so easily and smoothly, I felt like watching an episode of Criminal Minds! But set in Victorian era London.

It read so real that I got scared and couldn’t sleep at night without the lights on sometimes. I usually don’t read ghost books and this isn’t one, but true crime stories are actually scarier, in my opinion.

The monsters in these books are human beings.

It will make you wonder how some people can do such horrible things to fellow humans.

It delves into the psyche of people and makes you think if monsters are born or created.

However, it was so brutally detailed. So if you’re sensitive to gore, violence, and blood, please go into it with caution. The author didn’t shy away from the gory details. It worked best that way because when we’re reading through the eyes of the murderer, it was made to feel like De Quincey was the one sharing the story. NOT because he’s the murderer (or is he???) but because that’s how his character’s published works were. And people hate him for it. Imagine living in conservative times where mentioning a bathroom (or privy) in front of a lady is shameful! What more if you described a murder like you’re praising it?

I don’t think that I’ll be writing pros and cons of reading this book. Simply because I can’t think of anything bad to say about it. Also because I loved everything about it, so if I enumerate everything in detail, this’ll be such a long post.

Just know that I loved the writing style, the characters, the setting (although I’m not a fan of how society dictates every little thing a woman can and cannot do during those times), the plot, the pace of the story, and just everything!

I also loved how at every beginning of a chapter, the author states seemingly random facts but will then correlate it in that chapter as you go reading. I feel like I’ve learned quite a lot about London in the 1800s.

Finally, this book made me afraid of pigs! Why? I didn’t know they eat people when they go hungry enough! I generally avoid eating pork nowadays because I feel sad about the pigs and piglets but this book changed the pity to fear.

Don’t judge me.


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