Short Takes: Book reviews, in brief

Inspector of the Dead
Inspector of the Dead David Morrell


Inspector of the Dead

David Morrell, Mulholland, 352 pages

David Morrell’s “Inspector of the Dead,” a sequel to “Murder as a Fine Art,” tells the riveting story of a man determined to exact revenge for injustices done to him and his family. The people he intends to murder range from a shopkeeper to Queen Victoria.

His brutal – and often theatrical – killings take place in mid-Victorian London, but have the immediacy of something happening today. Morrell has researched the era thoroughly to bring it vividly to life.

The drama begins in February 1855, with England in the doldrums. The government has collapsed over the public’s dissatisfaction with its handling of the Crimean War.

Life in London gets more unsettling because the killer, who has already murdered people within easy reach, is now ready to go after more prominent victims.

Thomas De Quincey, a real-life writer of the era, is a fictitious sleuth in the story, but the novel’s real star is “the revenger.” The ingenious ways he plans and executes his killings are mesmerizing. Morrell makes him an unforgettable character, and “Inspector of the Dead” is a masterful work.

Associated Press

The Patriot Threat

Steve Berry, Minotaur, 400 pages

Cotton Malone tackles a case that could cause an uprising over taxes in Steve Berry’s new thriller, “The Patriot Threat.”

A deposed North Korean leader believes he can regain his honor and return to power by bringing down the United States. He stumbles on the works of an author named Howell, who postulates that the law creating the federal income tax was technically a fraud, making it invalid. Evidence suggests the scenario to be accurate, and he sees an opportunity to bring financial ruin to the country with an angry populace demanding restitution. He decides to track down the elusive author, but doesn’t expect Cotton Malone to be hot on both of their trails.

What makes Berry’s novels special is the mix of suspense with history, forcing the reader to ask: what’s real and what isn’t? Eight pages of author notes in “The Patriot Threat” reveal the truth, and the author’s insight is almost as good as the rest of the book.

The story line is compressed into a tight time frame, taking place in less than a day in real time. And Berry cleverly mixes the history of the federal income tax law with the creation of the Smithsonian National Gallery of Art.

Speculation and gunplay make “The Patriot Threat” one of Berry’s best books to date.

Associated Press