Summon Up the Blood: A Silas Quinn Mystery
Morris begins a new series (after The Cleansing Flame, 2011) with a grisly novel set in the foreboding atmosphere of London in 1914. Detective Inspector Silas Quinn, head of the Special Crimes Department, is known for his unconventional methods but, as long as he avoids publicity, Scotland Yard gives him a relatively free hand. Quinn does their dirty work — like his latest assignment.
A male prostitute has been drugged, murdered, and his body completely drained of blood. Similar crimes follow. The suspects are numerous — aristocrats, hangers-on, thrill seekers — but all have ties to an exclusive club for upper-class homosexuals. The perpetrator and, briefly, his prey, provide readers with the gory details while leaving behind little hard evidence. Quinn follows wherever deductive reasoning leads him until, using violence to combat violence, he ends the killings and satisfies Scotland Yard.
With his good brain and dark history, DI Quinn makes a good antihero. The early 20th century distaste for homosexuality that colors Quinn’s vocabulary is convincing. Other characters are stereotypes, however, marked not by their own words but those of the author/narrator. When a writer fails to rise above his subject matter, it gives a book a sordid flavor; but perhaps that is intentional. Summon Up the Blood is only for readers who like their murder, to butcher a phrase, served cold and bloody.