BookBrowse Reviews Ruler of the Night by David Morrell

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reviews |  Beyond the book |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

Ruler of the Night

Thomas De Quincey Mystery #3

by David Morrell

Ruler of the Night by David Morrell X
Ruler of the Night by David Morrell
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

     Not Yet Rated
  • First Published:
    Nov 2016, 352 pages
    Nov 2017, 352 pages


  • Rate this book

Book Reviewed by:
Kim Kovacs
Buy This Book

About this Book



Jam-packed with historical details, this engaging mystery, the third in a series, chugs along with fast-paced action sequences.

Amateur sleuth Thomas De Quincey is back in a mystery set in Victorian England. This time, he and his daughter Emily are on the scene when the horrific crime—the first known murder on a train (see 'Beyond the Book') —is perpetrated. Their close friends, Scotland Yard detectives Ryan and Becker are called in, and using deductive skills that would make Sherlock Holmes proud, the quartet proceeds to track down the killer.

De Quincey (1785-1859), a real-life author and drug addict, is an inspired choice as a protagonist, and author David Morrell sticks quite closely to the historical figure. De Quincey's 1827 pamphlet, On Murder Considered as a Fine Art, graphically described a series of grisly crimes committed in 1811, and was the basis for Morrell's first book in this series, Inspector of the Dead. De Quincey also achieved notoriety for his 1821 volume, Confessions of an English Opium Eater, which shocked 19th century readers with its frankness.

Reader familiar with the previous two books in the series will recognize Morrell's technique. Once again he uses a historical crime that had profound societal reverberations as a springboard to highlight several issues commonly discussed in British society of the day, such as train travel, the stock market, the British participation in the Crimean War, and the country's political relationship with Russia. Also covered is the Victorian fascination with "water cures," spas in which various treatments—such as warm-water enemas—were used to purge the body.

The level of historical detail can't be beat. Although I've read many novels set in the Victorian period, I can't remember any that are as packed with information as Morrell's books, yet still remain entertaining. The author slips these points in with the action, so readers hardly realize they're getting a history lesson:

[He] showed his ticket to a guard and hurried along the waiting train, its hissing engine seeming to indicate impatience. He passed the third-class carriages in which passengers could only stand. Then came the second-class carriages with their hard benches. The social importance of wealthy passengers required them to take precedent and be at the front, even though that put them behind the noise and sparks from the belching engine...Each [first class carriage] had several compartments, and each compartment had its separate entrance…During daylight, he could ignore the other occupants by reading a newspaper that he'd purchased from the W.H. Smith bookshop in the station, but at night, the single lamp in each compartment wasn't sufficient to allow him to read.

Morrell is best known for his debut novel, First Blood (1972), which became the basis of the Rambo movie franchise, so it's not surprising that he writes action sequences expertly. Ruler of the Night contains several sensational scenes that had me flipping through the pages at high speed.

While this book works as a standalone, readers would be better served by starting with the first entry in the series. It's interesting to note how the author's style changes over the three novels; the first is slower-paced, much heavier on historical detail and concentrates on relaying De Quincey's life, while this one contains considerably more action and less historical information about its protagonist.

The series as a whole falls a bit short in the mystery department; in each case I found the denouement less than convincing and felt somewhat dissatisfied with the murderer's motives and actions. Hard-core mystery fans might find the books disappointing. However, historical fiction aficionados—particularly those interested in Victorian England—will very likely revel in the layers of detail in Ruler Of the Night.

Photo Essays
David Morrell has created four intriguing photo essays about the novel's locations which are available on his publisher's website:

Magnificent Euston Station

Wyld's Monster Globe

Illustrious Dove Cottage

Malvern's Bizarre Water-cure Clinic

Reviewed by Kim Kovacs

This review was originally published in The BookBrowse Review in January 2017, and has been updated for the November 2017 edition. Click here to go to this issue.

This review is available to non-members for a limited time. For full access become a member today.
Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $12 for 3 months or $39 for a year.
  • More about membership!

Join BookBrowse

Become a Member and discover books that entertain, engage & enlighten.

Find out more

Today's Top Picks

  • Book Jacket: African Europeans
    African Europeans
    by Olivette Otele
    The nexus of Africans and Europeans is not a recent historical development. Rather, the peoples of ...
  • Book Jacket: The Killing Hills
    The Killing Hills
    by Chris Offutt
    The personified hills of the novel's title foreshadow the mood of this brooding and ominous tale. ...
  • Book Jacket: The Vixen
    The Vixen
    by Francine Prose
    Recent Harvard graduate Simon Putnam has been rejected from grad school and has thus returned to his...
  • Book Jacket: How the Word Is Passed
    How the Word Is Passed
    by Clint Smith
    With legislatures around the U.S. rushing to ban the teaching of critical race theory, it's clear ...

Book Club Discussion
Book Jacket
The War Nurse
by Tracey Enerson Wood
A sweeping novel by an international bestselling author based on a true World War I story.

Readers Recommend

  • Book Jacket

    The Forest of Vanishing Stars
    by Kristin Harmel

    An evocative coming-of-age World War II story from the author of The Book of Lost Names.

  • Book Jacket

    The Temple House Vanishing
    by Rachel Donohue

    A modern gothic page-turner set in a Victorian mansion in Ireland.

Win This Book!
Win Gordo

Gordo by Jaime Cortez

"Dark and hilarious ... singular and soaring ... Hands down, top debut of 2021."—Literary Hub



Solve this clue:

N Say N

and be entered to win..

Books that     

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends the best in contemporary fiction and nonfiction—books that not only engage and entertain but also deepen our understanding of ourselves and the world around us.