Dark Assassin: A William Monk Novel Mass Market Paperback – Feb 27 2007
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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.
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.
Top Customer Reviews
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
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
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.
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.
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.
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.
The police do know, however, that whatever happened, the new sewer construction seems to be at the center of it. The young woman's father worked deep in the tunnels for a company owned by her fiance's family. The word on the street is that the tunnels got to him, he couldn't take it any longer and he shot himself. But at the time of his demise, he was looking into the safety of the construction. A fortune stood to be made from the huge project, so if someone was making ripples, unscrupulous big business interests wouldn't hesitate to eliminate the "problem." And the daughter took up the cause where her father left off. Did she find out something that her betrothed was attempting to hide? Maybe the same thing her father had found out?
As the truth slowly comes to light through a great number of interviews --- both Monk's and Hester's, with a little help from their friends --- all three deaths start to smell fishy. And as for the sewers, well, the whitewashed reports of no serious injuries need to be reexamined, or the term "serious injuries" must be redefined. Tunnel work has never been rated among the safest occupations, so the optimistic lack of casualties smacks of a disturbing cover-up. Delving into the underground unearths a fiendish killer, and the deadly chase begins. If Monk doesn't watch every step, he may fall prey to the killer or, possibly worse, the tunnels themselves.
Anne Perry has created an extraordinary pair of sleuths: Hester, Monk's headstrong wife, a nurse who can boast of having worked with Florence Nightingale, and Monk himself, a superb investigator and a man of quiet strength, surprised by his passion for a woman of such fierce opinions. Their interactions with the Victorian world of 1860s London show the extent of society's evolution over the past 150 years.
Written convincingly in period prose and dialect, DARK ASSASSIN is a lively tale filled with action, compassion and, of course, mystery.
--- Reviewed by Kate Ayers