Few authors have written more mesmerizingly about Victorian London than Anne Perry. Readers enter her world with exquisite anticipation, and experience a rich variety of characters and class: aristocrats living in luxury, flower sellers on street corners, ladies of the evening seeking customers on gaslit streets, gentlemen in hansom cabs en route to erotic diversions unknown in their Mayfair mansions. Now Perry gives her myriad fans the book they’ve been waiting for—the novel in which William Monk breaks through the wall of amnesia and discovers at last who he once was.
DEATH OF A STRANGER
For the prostitutes of Leather Lane, nurse Hester Monk’s clinic is a lifeline, providing medicine, food, and a modicum of peace—especially welcome since lately their ailments have escalated from bruises and fevers to broken bones and knife wounds. At the moment, however, the mysterious death of railway magnate Nolan Baltimore in a sleazy neighborhood brothel overshadows all else. Whether he fell or was pushed, the shocking question in everyone’s mind is: What was such a pillar of respectability doing in a seedy place of sin?
Meanwhile, brilliant private investigator William Monk acquires a new client, a mysterious beauty who asks him to ascertain beyond a shadow of a doubt whether or not her fiancé, an executive in Nolan Baltimore’s thriving railway firm, has become enmeshed in fraudulent practices that could ruin him.
As Hester ventures into violent streets to learn who is responsible for the brutal abuse of her patients, Monk embarks upon a journey into the English countryside, where the last rails are being laid for a new line. But the sight of tracks stretching into the distance revives memories once stripped from his consciousness by amnesia—as a past almost impossible to bear returns, eerily paralleling a fresh tragedy that has already begun its inexorable unfolding.
Bestseller Perry's latest novel (after 2001's Funeral in Blue) to feature mid-Victorians William Monk and his wife, Hester, offers an ingenious and baffling plot, compelling characters, both major and minor, plus plenty of courtroom drama, but is something of a diamond in the rough. In London's East End, Hester, a former nurse with Florence Nightingale, has established a shelter for prostitutes where the ill and injured can be treated. One night, a well-known railway magnate is found dead in a nearby brothel, and the police presence in the area grinds the illicit business of the pimps and prostitutes to a halt. William, meanwhile, has undertaken a private investigation into possible fraud. His client, the fianc e of a young executive for the same railway as the murder victim, fears her betrothed may be implicated in the fraud scheme. As William recognizes parallels with the past, memories that he lost in an accident seven years earlier start to haunt him. Unfortunately, the book suffers from hasty execution, as reflected in repetitious phrasing, pronouns with unclear antecedents and confusing narrative transitions between Hester and William and between William in the present and William before his amnesia. The result is a challenging read, though established fans will likely forgive the author her lapses because she tells such a wonderful story.