One way and another, I meet quite a lot of murderers. Their crimes are merely sordid: there is nothing about them that remotely brings to mind De Quincey’s famous essay, “On Murder Considered as One of the Fine Arts.” The passions that lead to modern murder have no grandeur, tragic or otherwise, about them: they are low, savage and frequently drunken, symptomatic of modern man’s emotional life, which is intense but shallow and changeable. It isn’t surprising that, in my experience at least, remorse seldom lasts longer than a few days, though regret and bitterness at the consequences of the act of murder may last rather longer.

The means employed in modern murder have nothing artistic or romantic about them either: a kitchen knife in the spleen or a punch to the face, succeeded by a blow to the head struck by the waiting curbside. Sometimes one longs for a little more refinement, and very occasionally, ...