BY WAKA TSUNODA Associated Press

Murder is horrifying, but what if some psycho decided it could be an art and proceeded to create a masterpiece? In his stunning new novel, “Murder as a Fine Art,” David Morrell envisions the ultimate horror that would result.

The deranged character is fictitious, but his nemesis is an actual historical figure, Thomas De Quincey. The 19th-century writer is known for his memoir about his drug addiction, “Confessions of an English Opium-Eater,” and his essay that graphically describes the 1811 killings of two families in London.

The story begins 43 years after the crimes known as the Ratcliffe Highway murders. De Quincey is now 69 and lives in Edinburgh, Scotland, but comes to London to — among other things — publicize the third installment of his essay about those infamous murders. Soon after his arrival, killings that replicate the Ratcliffe Highway murders take place, and De Quincey becomes a prime suspect. With the help of his daughter, Emily, and two policemen, he risks his life to uncover the real killer.

Morrell, often called the father of modern action thrillers, fills the novel with plenty of blood-drenched scenes. Even elderly De Quincey gets to play an action hero. The drama feels shockingly real because Morrell’s thorough and erudite research of the people and culture of the British Empire’s heyday informs every page of the novel.

De Quincey himself was an early pioneer of the thriller, with his sensational portrayals of actual crimes. Now Morrell takes the genre into new artistic territory with “Murder as a Fine Art,” a literary thriller that pushes the envelope of fear.

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