Ruler of the Night: David Morrell
Fear will reign through London as someone will die. The railroad relatively new and traveled by some will suffer at the hand of someone that wants to take it down and would prefer the horse drawn carriage. But, within this well crafted novel with the eeriness of the time period and the night once again Thomas De Quincey finds himself in the thick of murder but in a most unconventional manner. With his addiction to opium and trying to decrease his daily dosage DeQuincey and his daughter Emily come upon the murder of someone while in a secured compartment on a train. The time period is the Victorian time period and the setting is London with its fog, dark clouds and cold air that permeate in just about every scene. 1855 was the year that the story takes its start and many were just beginning to travel by train or rail, which was just being introduced. The stench of the black smoke created the sound of a belch and many seemed entranced by the sound and the sight of this smoke. But, when one lone lawyer enters a first class car and is seated hoping that he remains alone and isolated little does he realize as he settles in, places his case with the documents he is bringing to someone at the other end of his voyage that the only other occupant that would enter would be his killer. The crime is graphically describe and when the events of the murder come to light there are many who hesitate to ride the rails and with the story as we read more we learn that author David Morrell recreated this true crime that did not happen in the year stated but in 1864. A loud noise that sounded like something was banging against the end of one of the cars alerts both Emily and DeQuincey that something is amiss. But, when opening the window and seeing that her father had blood on him she realizes that something is wrong and insists that the compartment be opened and that the one where the thump was heard be opened too. Little did they expect to find the corpse of a well-known lawyer but not exactly where you might expect as they alighted from the train, waiting for the police to arrive and managed to deter in an unusual way or manner some fierce dogs that longed quite mangy and ill using a very clever and unique method. Although he was trying to overcome his addition, but finding it hard, in order to proceed he did need to take doses of the opium and with his daughter Emily and her contacts in Scotland Yard they would try and solve the case but not before sending off a telegram to Detective Inspector Ryan and Detective Becker to ask them to come and help them sort things out. What would you do if you were Thomas De Quincey and Emily and someone was killed in the adjoining train compartment and you had to face it head on? But, as the evidence unravels and you meet some of the characters from the previous two installments of this trilogy, we learn that this plot will involve and impact the Prime Minster of England, members of high society and it goes further to deal with a German doctor who is accused of murdering Nicholas of Russia the Czar. You will also enter a water cure clinic on the outer border of London. When Lord Pemberton the Prime Minister learns that DeQuincey and his daughter are on the case and are commoners he frowns and is not happy. Even worse they are staying at the home of the Prime Minister, his home at the request and invitation of Prince Albert and Queen Victoria. An old friend and even more named Carolyn comes back into his life as the author relates his early years living as a homeless man, hiding in a space with nothing more than a simple cloak to keep him warm and a ten year old girl named Carolyn in his protection. Emily is a force to be reckoned with and her style not quite what women of the times wear and her ability to learn both art and medicine remarkable. Having Carolyn in his life reminds readers that he greatly misses Ann, his first love who vanished as you might say into thin air.
The story goes back to the murder on the train and the man Harcourt that is the victim; a lawyer is the first of the murders as they learn of another man a solicitor who was next. In both cases the killer is the same person who has managed to elude capture. The story lends itself once more to the fact that De Quincey is still addicted to laudanum and at times when stressed a dosage is the only way to help him function. With Lord Palmerston, the new Prime Minister wishing they would leave his home, and the main reason trying to find his first love, we wonder how many more people might be linked to the murders. Was it the Russians due to the war? Was it someone trying to send Scotland Yard on a wild goose chase? Both victims had relatively similar professions, which would count for the fact they dealt with people who are upper class. When Becker and Ryan finally read the documents this man was killed for what will they learn and will they figure out the motive and who did it?
The research that author David Morrell did when writing this plot helps readers to learn more about the time period, the fiction part and the non-fiction as those who never knew or learned about De Quincey will get a first hand look at this man, his life and his addiction. The author allows De Quincey to enter the investigation although it might seem unconventional to some readers, using his brilliant mind and ability to deduce and deduct facts will his unusual methods and personality help solve the case along with Emily? Added in the author relates events through Emily in her journal written in the first person narrative. Learning from Emily first hand about the murders that took place first Daniel Harcourt, next a solicitor and the bomb that was set at one of the train stations followed by a huge fire that has yet to be investigated by Becker and Ryan. Things spiral out of control but Emily and her father along with Carolyn and her husband take the train much to the surprise of those working there to visit her daughter and meet her grandson Jeremy. But, Harold, her older stepson resents her and his distaste for her comes through but why? Her husband is in a wheelchair and cannot speak or move and you wonder why Harold feels guilty. No matter what Stella does the ice is never broken and the coldness comes through as she introduces her son to Emily who declares him upon examination fit and healthy to the surprise of his mother. Added in we learn more about Dr. Mandt and why he is accused of killing the Russian Czar and how Dr. Wainwright’s water cure and his treatments would not only benefit him and his stress but his over 300 patients too as the police witness one of his radical treatments and hears first hand the accolades of his patient feeling more invigorated after what was done to her. Many people hesitate to ride the trains and of course as in the present time stock values decline and investors are panicked. Using his research into the time period we learn more about the Crimean War between Russia and Britain and of course much is alluded to that the Russians might be the ones trying to disrupt the British stock market. Just who is behind this and is it a Russian plot but as we would know state listening to the news possibly a terrorist group that has targeted the trains. While Emily and her father visit Sedwick Hill and chanced riding the trains, Ryan and Becker are trying to find out how a bomb exploded on a train platform, who left a travel bag in a compartment starting a fire and causing one train to hit another and will the trains ever be safe again.
Things spiral out of control when we learn who in the British government is corrupt and what and who is behind the murders as Dr. Mandt’s hideout is found, someone tries to kill him and torch where he is hiding and then Harold, Stella’s stepson goes in a rampage against Emily, her father and Carolyn inflicting pain and injuring each one of them as he is accused of killing his father. Such a blind rage as he throws them out of what he thinks is now his estate but Carolyn’s words better ring out loud and true as she relates what might just be his just rewards so to speak. When they are safely with Wainwright and hopefully attended to, Sean and Becker go after Harold and hopefully no one else will be hurt.
A twist of fate and betrayals, deceits, lies and more come out as the truth behind Wainwright, his clinic, who owns it and a Russian after Mandt, a fire at the clinic and the end result might be more deaths as the Home Secretary and the Prime Minister are at the helm trying to block the investigations but why?
When all of the pieces are put together and the killer is revealed the reader won’t believe who was behind the murders and the fire and how it linked to the railways and the falling stocks and what will happen when they rise again. An ending that only author David Morrell can create with deceits, betrayals, treachery, hate, fear, uncontrollable actions and lies that are so boldly told that even the killer is convinced of his/her innocence. When the past haunts your present and the fateful truth comes out author David Morrell completes this trilogy. But, before the final nails are in the final coffins and the lawyers decide who needs to be defended and who will be hanged you the reader must be wonder just who is THE RULER OF THE NIGHT?
Fran Lewis: Just reviews/MJ magazine