William Monk doesn't remember his name. He doesn't remember his life, his past, who he is and what he's like. Those who know him tell him he's a detective with the police, but Monk can't remember having anything to do with the police. In fact, he doesn't even remember his family, or his childhood. When he looks in the mirror, he sees a stranger, not his own face. But he must hide his lack of memory if he's to discover who he is. Life as a detective may give him some insight as to who he is. But then he is put on the most difficult case - the case of Major Joscelin Grey, who has been beaten to death in his own appartment, and then further beaten after he was dead. As Monk tries to hide his loss of memory, he must solve the two cases thrust upon him - Major Grey's as well as his own - at the cost of much more than anyone can fathom.
I'm utterly impressed. What a story - what characters - what a murder and a way to solve it. I've read one other Anne Perry novel (Buckingham Palace Gardens) and was completely engrossed. I expected to love this one....and boy, did I!
I'll start with the characters. You know those characters that you love from the moment you meet them? Well, here's one that I loved from page one...literally. I loved him when he was waking in darkness, all alone, with no memory. I wanted to be his friend, to see him well, to watch him build success after such an accident - such a downfall. His name is William Monk. All of Anne Perry's characters are very humanized, to say the least. They all feel - love, hate. They cry and laugh. They all struggle with something deeper than the surface. And while it is fascinating to see this in her other characters, with William Monk, it was a treat, a desert to be savored. We watch him as he is seeing himself - as though for the first time, with no recollection of the past. We are a part, from the very beginning, of his self-discovery. We see what he sees, understand what he understands. We are kept in the dark and we are captivated by the newness of Monk's life as it is to him, however old or young he may be. The rest of Anne Perry's characters, while not seen from this angle and depth, are all so well drawn out that within a few sentences about them, you feel as though you know them, and yet you have a fascination to learn evern more.
I really enjoyed Evan's character as well, and the part he plays in the story. He's a young, new detective who looks up to the brilliant William Monk with an innocence that makes him human. As you watch Monk and the story unfolding, you also see what it's like to be a newbie detective in Victorian England. Evan affected Monk's character in ways that I loved - but you'll have to read the book to see for yourself!
The story line here is interesting and quite original. (There have been books about lost memories before, and there will be more, I'm sure, but this had something unique to it.) While it fluctuates from being a page-turner to just your average mystery novel, it never lost my interest...not once. And I never felt lost about what was going on. Even with twists in the story and new additions of suspects and characters, I felt on top of the case and ready to kick some murderer-butt.
And then there is the writing.... It's smooth, like melted chocolate - and it tastes just as good. She writes simply, elegantly, and with a class and style that is a God-given gift. The quote that I posted last week is an example of her perfect and realistic descriptions. I read this and I immediately cared for the woman she was describing - and I didn't even know her name. (Her dialogue is also realistic and very intriguing. It's very right for the time period.)
Oh, and the end... Don't even get me started on how shocked and excited and nervous I got.
So would I recommend this book? Yes: to anyone (probably older teen to adult) who can read. It's captivating, realistic (that's another thing - Anne Perry doesn't hold back on her crimes, which is also the reason I recommend it to older teens), and intense. And there's Monk - need I say more? I think we've established this, by now, that he's my favorite character. And one word I would use to describe this book: exquisite. (Like melted chocolate.) This book is especially wonderful if you're looking for a mystery with the feel of Sherlock Holmes - except one that's longer and has more depth. You'll get that...and a story that relies deeply on the patterns of human nature to solve crimes, which makes for a very interesting case.