From Publishers Weekly
The strain of publishing two major novels a year continues to show in bestseller Perry's 14th historical to feature private inquiry agent William Monk and his wife, Hester, despite the fresh start for Monk, who has recovered from the amnesia that afflicted him in Death of a Stranger
(2002). In the autumn of 1873, because he needs the money, Monk agrees to recover valuable cargo stolen from a ship waiting to be unloaded at an East End London dock for the ship's owner, Clement Louvain, with the proviso that Louvain will also prosecute the thieves for murdering the ship's watchman. Monk enlists the aid of a young Cockney orphan, Scuff, who doubts Monk's ability to investigate a Docklands crime: "Yer in't got the wits fer it, nor the stomach neither. Yer stick to wot yer can do-wotever that is." Meanwhile, Hester, who receives no pay for the clinic she runs for streetwalkers, must deal with an unexpected death that she suspects may be murder. Unfortunately, the author too often tells rather than shows. The reader waits impatiently for the "ruthless" Monk to say or do something that suggests that quality. Still, with its focus on the lower classes and the Thames, the plot will resonate with fans of Dickens's riparian novel, Our Mutual Friend
. And, as always, Perry uses her characters and story to comment on ethical issues that remain as relevant today as they were in Victorian times. Expect another bestseller.
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Throughout much of the long-running William Monk series, set in Victorian England, the former London police officer and now "private enquiry agent" has been defined by his amnesia. In book after book, Monk has struggled to regain knowledge of his identity before the coach accident that took his long-term memory. In Perry's last Monk novel, Death of a Stranger
(2002), the investigator regained his memory. In the latest, he barely remembers his amnesia at all and leaves the streets to work London's "longest street," the Thames. The question is: What is Monk without his amnesia? This book seems to abandon the now fully functioning Monk in favor of the far more varied and changeable Thames. After Monk is hired to investigate the theft of a cargo of ivory from a merchant ship and a related murder, he and the reader become aware of what a universe the river represents--and a crime-riddled one at that. It is fascinating to watch Monk try (and fail) to apply his London street smarts to a secretive milieu totally governed by the tides. Monk's investigation blends into his wife's work (Hester runs a clinic for assaulted or sick prostitutes) when a shipowner's cast-off mistress is brought in to the clinic with a mysterious ailment. This ailment eventually threatens all of London. Sketchy characterization, a somewhat obvious plot, but marvelous historical material on the Thames. Connie FletcherCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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