This is the second novel in Morrell’s mystery-thriller series featuring infamous Victorian era writer Thomas De Quincey. This book, like the first in the series, has a bravura opening featuring a graphic murder during a church service that then spirals out into a multiple murder. Murders of high-ranking officials start stacking up and at each crime scene, the killer leaves a name; in each instance, it’s the name of someone who attempted to assassinate the Queen. Our killer, it seems, is going through the political halls of power with one particular target in view. Like the first book in the series, this one starts out supremely strong and then rather slowly coasts to a stop. Morrell has a way with violence that is shocking and visceral and he knows how to really kick a book off with a bang. But then, things get more far-fetched and the prose, when not describing violence, gets kind of awkward. The opening is great and there’s a great scene where a recurring character finds himself trapped in his own home as the killer attempts to break in that is nail-bitingly intense. The book is also set during a very interesting time, when scandals over the Crimean War have brutalized the British government to the point that it’s barely functional as so many people have been demoted or resigned and there are power-struggles for every position that’s been opened up. Didn’t know much about that and it was interesting to get some details there. Still, this one isn’t particularly bad, just not really worth your time. There’s only one left in the series, so I think I’ll go ahead and knock that one out, but, on the whole, this series has been basically average. 2 ½ stars.
tl;dr – interesting historic backdrop & a couple of tense sequences of violence and suspense aside, this book is mostly forgettable and workmanlike. 2 ½ stars.