William Monk, the unquestionably handsome, somewhat vain, but genuinely tenderhearted "agent of enquiry" is back on the streets of Victorian London, investigating his 10th case, a missing woman. Miriam Gardiner was due to be betrothed to a much younger man, a well-to-do gentleman named Lucius Stourbridge. But during a family croquet party, the bride-to-be vanished, apparently fleeing in a coach driven by a family servant named Treadwell. Monk would normally be reluctant to get involved in a simple case of pre-wedding jitters, but his own recent marriage to the headstrong nurse Hester Latterly gives him a newfound empathy for the heartbroken Lucius. Of course, as always in Perry's historical mysteries, all is not quite as it seems. Treadwell is found murdered, and the missing Miriam becomes the number-one suspect. Monk is convinced that she "could and would do no intentional evil," even as Hester connects her to another illicit crime. Eventually unearthed by London's finest, Miriam is arrested and charged with murder, and it's up to barrister Oliver Rathbone to absolve her in court (with a little help from his good friends William and Hester Monk).
With a plot twist around every corner, Anne Perry knows just how to keep us in suspense, right up to the exceedingly dramatic finale. The Twisted Root is a luminous whodunit from the queen of Victorian mystery. --Naomi Gesinger
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From Publishers Weekly
In this 10th entry in the popular series featuring prickly English investigator William Monk and his equally prickly bride, nurse Hester Latterly (A Breach of Promise, etc.), Perry mulls over the moral justification of criminal acts. Just back from his honeymoon in the summer of 1860, Monk tries to locate Mrs. Miriam Gardiner, a comely widow who inexplicably fled in a coach from her wealthy young fianc?'s home. Monk's search takes him to Hampstead Heath, where the coachman's body is foundAmurdered, he deduces, by a single blow to the head. Could Miriam have struck that deadly blow as she fled, and if so, why? Cornered at last, Miriam refuses to explain her behavior or implicate the coachman's murderer, even though Monk suspects she's the victim of some atrocity. Meanwhile, Hester gears up to defend Cleo Anderson, a saintly nurse who admits to filching hospital supplies to treat impoverished war veterans. Plot mechanics grind away as Perry strains to connect the two crimes, resolving matters with an ending that reads like Henry Fielding without the laughs. Fans of earlier Monk and Latterly mysteries may enjoy Perry's sometimes overwrought depiction of the two-career couple negotiating who cooks supper, but the many other anachronisms just don't wash (says Hester's colleague: "you want to have nurses visit the poor in their homes? You are fifty years before your time"). Despite the characters' tendency to sermonize self-righteously, Perry's theme is the hazy nature of guiltAa topic sure to intrigue those who've followed her career. For thrills, however, readers should turn to other books in the series. Mystery Guild selection; Random House audio. (Oct.)
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