This is the 2nd book in the William Monk series. To read my review of the first book (a delicious mystery that shocked me!!!), click: The Face of a Stranger by Anne Perry.
The case is dangerous: the murder of a young woman of society, stabbed to death in her own room and a few trinkets stolen. Inspector William Monk takes on the case, still lacking 95% of his memory but determined to keep this loss a secret and prove himself worthy. It seems a simple endeavor, but the case becomes more and more complicated with time. Monk is able to prove that the murderer attacked from within the house, a feat that could only be accomplished by someone living in the house. It being practically a crime itself to accuse a member of high society of being a criminal, Monk's reputation is on the line. Was the murderer a servant, like society says it should be? Or was he a family member, harboring a dark secret? And Monk has his own problems to attend to, more personal and deeper than anything he's ever experienced - or so they tell him. Who is he? Why does he have the reputation he has? Who will he become without his memory? With these questions never ceasing, and the murder case honing in on him, Monk must face problems and consequences he never foresaw.
My thoughts -
I normally don't read mysteries. They intrigue me, but I'm not motivated to read them like I am a good fantasy/dystopian book. That is, I'm not motivated to read mysteries other than the William Monk mysteries, which are some of the greatest books around. I could rave for hours about the genius of these books. They provide incredible, life-like characters, situations that are out of the ordinary but not hard to believe, insight into the Victorian era in England like only a Victorian novelist could give, and phenomenal mysteries that have you guessing until the very end. Literally, the last few pages.
Have I caught your attention yet?
If I haven't, keep reading and I hope by the time you finish reading this review you'll have made up your mind to start reading this incredible series.
Character notes -
The characters in Anne Perry's novels seem, to me, as real as any one I can see or hear or interact with. They are full to the brim with wonderful liveliness and incredible depth, human desires, strengths, and weaknesses. This is hard to come by these days in a near perfect way - but Anne Perry has nailed it and I can't tell you how much it inspires me.
Monk is one of those "tragically wonderful" characters who I love and adore. I can't get enough of him. Whatever he does is interesting, whether its solving a crime or discovering things about his past. I admire him and love his journey as he discovers how proud he was in the past and is humbled. He and Hester are the perfect duo for these books...how I love their arguments!
Runcorn and Evan are great characters as well. The Lord Basil and his wife Beatrice, their son and daughters, their brothers and sisters, their servants - all of them had me captivated. There is a sense of human desperation in these stories that is very real and easy to relate to. Everyone, tried and exhausted and frustrated, trying to make sense of it all, no one trusting, everyone confused - it is stunning to read and makes for an intensity that builds and builds and builds and finally bursts. Wonderfully done, Perry!
Hester has a greater part in this story than the last (actually, half of the book is from her perspective). I feel like I should say this in case anyone is expecting just Monk's perspective and is possibly frustrated (as I was at first). But Hester is a fun character and brings a lot to the story, so if you go into it expecting that, you'll love it from the first!
Story notes -
While character development and interaction is a major focus (and one of the main ways the author uses to solve the mystery), Anne Perry uses incredible details and events to set up the story, create a conflict, and solve the crime. A few scenes had me cringing (or freaking out, haha!) because it was so intense and I had no idea what was going to happen and I didn't want one thing to happen... Or I was just plain stumped.
This book, just like its predecessor, was not a "fast" read for me. For me, it was intense, yes, and very interesting and satisfying and incredible, but it's one of those books I feel like I have to read slower to get all the details... The details are meant to be soaked in. Let's say you ate a really sweet strawberry really fast and didn't let the taste linger on your tongue...how sad! You wouldn't get the full potential of that wonderfully tasting strawberry! It's the same with these books. If you don't savor them, you might miss out on some incredible details that make the story all the more fantasic. That is what I love about these books. They make me slow down and focus on the little things; they make me forget about the next book I have to read and just enjoy; they make me appreciate slow-building intensity.
One word to sum it up (final thoughts) -
Stunning. This is some of the best prose out there, a lovely combination of mystery and historical fiction, of detail and story and character. And it's all tied up perfectly at the end, leaving you surprised at the turn the story took in just the last ten pages, and totally in love with good literature, Victorian England, and William Monk. Is there anything not to love? Need I say more?
For the parents: These are not children's books; whether or not they are young adult books is everyone's personal opinion. There is nothing sexual, and there is little bad language. However, the subject matter and the violence and possible psychotic killer can be very intense for certain readers. One character is stabbed mercilessly and left for dead (details not shown, but the inferred could be enough to make a more sensitive reader uncomfortable to the point of dislike); there are a few references to rape and how to rape a Lord's daughter is a crime, but to rape the same Lord's servant is pardonable. Over all a profound book and recommended to every adult, and most older teens out there!