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Dark Assassin: A William Monk Novel [Mass Market Paperback]

Anne Perry
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)

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Book Description

Feb. 27 2007 William Monk Novels
For countless readers, one of life’s great pleasures is the mesmerizing magic of a Victorian mystery by New York Times bestselling author Anne Perry. Her dramas of good and evil unfolding inside London’s lavish mansions and teeming slums hold us spellbound. Now, in Dark Assassin, she sweeps us into a darkly compelling world that we never dreamed existed.

A Thames River Police superintendent struggling to win the respect of his men, William Monk is on a patrol boat near Waterloo Bridge when he notices a young couple standing at the bridge railing, apparently engaged in an intense discussion. The woman waves her arms and places her hands on the man’s shoulders. A caress or a push? The man grasps hold of her. To save her or to kill her? Seconds later, the pair plunge to their death in the icy waters. Monk can’t help but wonder, was it an accident, a suicide, or a murder? It seems impossible to determine the truth, but haunted by the woman’s somber beauty, he is impelled to try.

Mary Havilland was her name, and she had planned to marry Toby Argyll, the fair-haired man who shared her fate. Mary’s father, an engineer employed by the Argyll Company, had recently died–a suicide, according to the police and Mary’s sister. But Mary’s friends tell Monk that she suspected her father had been murdered because of his stubborn insistence that the Argyll Company’s current project–the construction of a splendid new sewer system for the metropolis–was so badly flawed that it put the entire city in peril from flood and fire.

Monk is now faced with the mysteries of the three deaths. Aided by his intrepid wife Hester, he starts looking for answers and is soon treading a slippery path that takes him from the luxurious drawing rooms where powerful men hatch their unscrupulous plots to a world beneath the city where poor folk fight starvation. In nightmarish tunnels, Monk and Hester find true friends, among them Scuff, a young mudlark; Sutton the ratcatcher; and Snoot, Sutton’s clever terrier. For once, even Monk’s old enemy, Superintendent Runcorn, is on his side. As rainfall strains the fragile manmade underground, Monk must connect the clues before death strikes again.

With characters as vivid as Dickens’s, gripping courtroom scenes, breathless horrors beneath the earth, and a plot that twists and turns toward a stunning denouement, Dark Assassin is absolutely one of Anne Perry’s best.


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From Publishers Weekly

William Monk faces special challenges in bestseller Perry's absorbing 15th novel to feature the Victorian policeman (after 2005's The Shifting Tide), as he must convince skeptical fellow officers of his competence to lead the corruption-ridden Thames River Police during a rampant crime wave. In a fogbound setting evocative of Conan Doyle, newly appointed Superintendent Monk and his river patrol watch helplessly as two young lovers plunge to their deaths from a bridge. Monk's exhaustive investigation, aided by his activist wife, Hester, soon reveals a deadly conflict between the two lovers' families over the hasty construction of a vast sewer complex built to prevent a recurrence of the "Great Stink" and typhoid epidemic of 1863. A riveting pursuit of an unknown assassin brings Monk in contact with the city's most destitute, one of several incidents highlighting the growing conflict between the abject poor and those whose houses have such luxuries as sewers and gas pipes. Some readers may have trouble with the cockney dialogue, but all will relish the last-minute twists that lead to a compelling resolution. (Mar.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Booklist

Since first making his appearance in Face of a Stranger (1990), William Monk has continued to hunt for the memory that vanished following a nearly fatal accident. By now, much of his background has fallen into place, but he still yearns for proof that he's become a better man. His new job, superintendent of the Thames River Police, brings fresh opportunity. On a routine river patrol, Monk and his men watch in horror as a man and a woman plunge off a bridge to their deaths. Was it an accident? Urged on by his beloved wife, Hester, Monk investigates, and discovers that the woman had a mission that made suicide unlikely; she was in the midst of proving that her father's recent death was murder. To close one case, Monk must solve the other, and his pursuit of the truth leads him into the dark, stinking world beneath the streets of Victorian London. A shaky premise notwithstanding, this fifteenth episode once again demonstrates Perry's artful mastery of the period details and social concerns of the times, and series fans will appreciate the fact that Monk's genuinely appealing combination of uncertainty and determination remains largely unchanged. Stephanie Zvirin
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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5.0 out of 5 stars MYSTERIES ARE DARKER WHEN SET IN VICTORIAN LONDON April 7 2006
By Gail Cooke TOP 50 REVIEWER
Format:Audio CD
Mysteries are deeper, villains more frightening when they're set in Victorian London. Anne Perry has proven this time and again with her William Monk series, and she does so once more with Dark Assassin.
Now a superintendent with the Thames River Police, Monk is on regular patrol near the Waterloo Bridge when he and his crew helplessly watch as a couple fall into the dark frigid waters. Did they think they had seen a struggle Was it a murder suicide or some grisly death pact?
The pair were young and in love, planning to marry. The man was Toby Argyll and the girl Mary Havilland. She had recently lost her father who worked for the Argyll Company, a mega firm involved in the building of what was purported to be a splendid new sewer system. However, Mr. Havilland had serious doubts about the efficiency of the proposed system. He voiced these doubts too often, Mary believed, and was murdered for his claims.
With Hester, his steadfast wife, by his side Monk begins to investigate the deaths of the young couple. There seems to be no question that there has been skullduggery at the Argyll Company, but who took the lives of Toby, Mary, and her father?
Shades of Dickens and Arthur Conan Doyle, Dark Assassin is a gripping listen as narrated by David Colacci who perfectly captures the voices of upper class Brits as well as the poor who labor beneath the city.
- Gail Cooke
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Amazon.com: 4.2 out of 5 stars  54 reviews
29 of 29 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars MYSTERIES ARE DARKER WHEN SET IN VICTORIAN LONDON April 7 2006
By Gail Cooke - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD
Mysteries are deeper, villains more frightening when they're set in Victorian London. Anne Perry has proven this time and again with her William Monk series, and she does so once more with Dark Assassin.

Now a superintendent with the Thames River Police, Monk is on regular patrol near the Waterloo Bridge when he and his crew helplessly watch as a couple fall into the dark frigid waters. Did they think they had seen a struggle Was it a murder suicide or some grisly death pact?

The pair were young and in love, planning to marry. The man was Toby Argyll and the girl Mary Havilland. She had recently lost her father who worked for the Argyll Company, a mega firm involved in the building of what was purported to be a splendid new sewer system. However, Mr. Havilland had serious doubts about the efficiency of the proposed system. He voiced these doubts too often, Mary believed, and was murdered for his claims.

With Hester, his steadfast wife, by his side Monk begins to investigate the deaths of the young couple. There seems to be no question that there has been skullduggery at the Argyll Company, but who took the lives of Toby, Mary, and her father?

Shades of Dickens and Arthur Conan Doyle, Dark Assassin is a gripping listen as narrated by David Colacci who perfectly captures the voices of upper class Brits as well as the poor who labor beneath the city.

- Gail Cooke
25 of 26 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars a little different in format from previous instasllments but a good read all the same April 4 2006
By tregatt - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
It's true that this latest William Monk mystery novel is quite different from the previous ones in that instead of looking at one particular mystery plot from several different angles (one subplot that would've involved Monk's efforts, while another concentrated on Hester's and yet a third involved barrister Oliver Rathbone's contribution to the case), "Dark Assassin" is more of a "one-tone" mystery novel -- one sees things almost exclusively from Monk's point-of-view.

William Monk has a new job as a police inspector with the Thames River Police. It is position that he has accepted because of the job security that it offers and because the inspector that he's replacing, the deceased Inspector Durban, had recommended him for the job ("The Shifting Tide"). Monk, however, is finding it heavy going trying to fill the popular Durban's shoes, especially since he feels the guilt of having survived while Durban died, and because he feels as if the other policeman of the Thames River Police not only hold him accountable for having survived, but also question his competence. One evening, while on patrol, Monk and his team witness the questionable plunge onto the Thames by a young couple. Both die from the impact. However it remains unclear as to whether or not it was a suicide pact between the two, if one of them was trying to push the other off the bridge and was pulled along by the struggle, or if one was trying to end his/her life and the other was pulled along. Monk soon discovers that the dead woman was Mary Havilland, that her own father had committed suicide a few months before -- something that quite devastated Mary -- and that the man who feel off the bridge with her was her ex-fiance, Toby Argyll. Moved by the tragic deaths and unsure as to what happened, Monk resolves to discover what really happened on the bridge and to prevent Mary from having the fate of being declared a suicide. Strangely enough, Monk receives help from an unexpected quarter -- from his old foe, Superintendent Runcorn, who had investigated Mary's father death, and who is having second thoughts about Havilland's death. Will Monk and Runcorn discover anything that will help them prove that Mary had not committed suicide out of despair? Or will all this cooperation be in vain?

When I said that it was more of a "one-tone" mystery novel I meant that absent was the many tones and point-of-view that Anne Perry usually imbues her novels with, where the reader would be privy to how some of the characters viewed things (wrong-headed though they may be) and the pain and anguish that comes with the realisation as to where these views have led them or have wrought. "Dark Assassin" concentrated more on the subplot involving the investigation into the Havillands' activities (father and daughter) and Monk's new duties. And unfortunately, this time around Hester's contributions were confined mainly to her making a few social rounds as she tried to get the chief suspect's wife to testify against him. I rather missed the old Hester full of vim and vigour, ready to go out on a limb in order to help someone. On the other hand, this was a truly wonderfully absorbing read -- not very suspenseful one, it is true, but absolutely riveting nevertheless. And while I rather missed the skillful manner in which Ms Perry usually brought her multifaceted characters to life, the dark, urgent atmosphere of this novel -- those vividly rendered scenes in the nightmarish tunnels below the city where is everything is dank and damp for example-- more than made up for it. It is true that the pacing was slightly more sedate and a tad less breathless; but this was more because the novel moved between the Havilland case and Monk's other duties on the river than anything else. All in all though, "Dark Assassin" was an excellent read, and one that I enjoyed completely in spite of the fact that it was a little less compelling and darkly intriguing than previous installments. Only one thing truly confused me (and SPOILER ALERT here) I rather thought that during the Victorian period, if you were arrested on a criminal charge, you were remanded, which made the plot twist at the end a little problematical.
16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars William Monk Afloat May 30 2006
By Donald Mitchell - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
The death of Inspector Durban in The Shifting Tide leads William Monk to replace Durban with the Thames River Police as a debt of honor and to provide some much-needed income. As the book opens, Monk is shivering in the bow of a police boat during January as the boat slowly approaches Waterloo Bridge. Less than two hundred feet away, Monk spots a man and woman facing one another with passion . . . just before something terrible happens.

The unexpected event places Monk into an investigation that the Thames River Police would normally not pursue, much to the consternation of his new supervisor who is rightly concerned about a surge in river robberies. At the same time, Monk is having a hard time gaining control over his men and learning how to stop river crime.

As Monk pursues his investigation, he finds lots of loose ends that leave him dissatisfied. That, in turn, leads him to an uneasy alliance with his former friend and adversary, Superintendent Runcorn.

The loose ends all tie together into a trail that leads to the mad dash to create sewers to eliminate disease from London. Before the book ends, both Monk and Hester find themselves among the dank, dark underground rivers that crisscross London. You'll find as entertaining a crew of expert underground helpers as Charles Dickens ever produced for these adventures.

I was tempted to grade this as a five-star book, but I couldn't quite bring myself to do that after remembering how slowly the book develops after the initial scene. Certainly, from about the half-way point to the end, this is a five-star effort full of interesting plots, subplots and villains that you'll long remember.

I don't recall a book in this series that I've enjoyed more than the second half of Dark Assassin.

The unique nature of river crime promises more exciting stories to come in this fine series.
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Intense April 24 2006
By SDRTX - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
William Monk, now an inspector with the Thames River Police is on a routine patrol of the river when he watches helplessly as the bodies of a young man and woman fall from the Waterloo bridge. Even though Monk was an eyewitness, he has doubts about happened. Was the fall an accident, a deliberate push,or a struggle?

It's always a pleasure to read about Monk and his wife Hester. They are compelling protagonists and fully fleshed-out characters who have grown with each subsequent story. Anne Perry's plots rarely disappoint, and this one is no exception, but her real gift is the atmosphere and the sense of time and place that she evokes.
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Quality Series Doesn't Disappoint April 23 2006
By DRob - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Dark Assassin is the latest in Anne Perry's series of novels featuring William Monk and Hester Latterly, now his wife. In this story, Monk has taken a job with the River Police. One night while out on the river with his men, he and his crew witness the deaths of a man and a woman off a bridge over the Thames-- what they cannot decide, however, is if they witnessed a murder, a suicide or an accident. The case affects Monk deeply as he is reluctant to allow the deaths to be ruled suicide if there is a possibility that another verdict can be made so the young woman, particularly, can be buried in hallowed ground. He becomes especially suspicious when he finds that the young woman's father supposedly committed suicide a few weeks before. To ivestigate the two deaths, he teams up with Inspector Runcorn of the London Police, who had been Monk's partner in Monk's former life.

Anne Perry excels at bringing Victorian England to life-- not just the romantic aspects, but the grittier reality of every day life. In this book she focuses on the building of the massive sewer tunnels beneath the city, and the life underground. Perry doesn't flinch at showing the seamier sides of life, and she takes great pains to constantly let us know how sheltered the middle class and above are from the living conditions of the people who labor to make their privileged lives possible.

So how does Hester fit into this story? She plunges right into it, as she, also, is disturbed at the idea of the young woman being wrongfully buried in unhallowed ground. It brings back memories of the suicide of her own father, many years before. However, she approaches it from another angle, by going to see the MP who is responsible for the tunnels being built under the City of London and making the suggestion that there is a safety issue involved. The MP and his wife are both decent people and his wife, especially, readily agrees to assist Hester in finding out the truth about the young woman's death.

The mystery in this book is not particularly extraordinary, and at the end it seems rather rushed-- which is a frequent problem in Anne Perry's books-- I like to have everything wrapped up in a neat little package with a bow on top, but I enjoy these books for the richness of the characters and the glimpse of a life that is very different from today's life, but in a lot of ways is still the same. It is a pleasure to see the return of young Scuff, and there is a hint that he may become a more regular character.

All in all, this is an enjoyable book; it's not the kind of mystery that you can just read and forget. but like all of Perry's books, it is designed to make you think, and it gives you plenty to think about.
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