on August 12, 2014
I am a complete Anne Perry fan...over the years I have thoroughly enjoyed William Monk and Pitt. I love these two characters and their wives. Its also amazing how Anne weaves in the background of Victorian England, the class structure, the politics of the time.
A Breach of Promise was a great read.
on March 7, 2003
This book "grabbed" me from the first page. I honestly felt as though I was there with the main characters, participating in their experiences and world. As I'd suspected, my INITIAL guess regarding the reason pretty young Zilla's supposed fiance "backed out" was totally "off-base," and made complete sense when it was ultimately divulged. The writing style is lively, EVERYTHING falls neatly into place, and thus I UNHESITATINGLY classify this novel as a COMPELLING "read." I had trouble putting it down once I got "into" it, and found the details related to life and customs during that period to be enlightening, particularly since I'm not a "well-versed" history buff, per se. I recommend this book to anyone who enjoys reading works of general fiction which are neither exceedingly lengthy nor go into painstaking detail.
on September 30, 2002
Simon Jones' reading was disappointing and irritating. It was choppy and brusk, nearly without any emotion or 'feeling'. His voices tended to be the same- nasal and abrupt for men, breathy for women, so it was difficult to tell the characters apart. His unfortunate treatment was very distracting for what is one of Ms Perry's best books and will discourage me from purchasing any more read by him. If you enjoy Anne Perry and wish to listen to her works on tape, I would recommend David McCallum's performances of her Pitt books- they are excellently done. Bottom line: read the book or try the unabridged by a different reader.
on July 27, 2002
Anne Perry once again returns to a favorite theme -- People will go to great lengths to avoid exposure of a deeply held secret. In this novel there are several persons who are concealing their pasts and identities and the last revelation is the most surprising.
Her knowledge of Victorian England, of Victorian police procedures at this time and of Victorian class structure and inhibitions is once again revealed by the authenticity of her
Anne Perry knows a great deal more than most persons about the most dynamic woman of Victorian England -- Florence Nightingale -- and her knowledge enriches her portrayal of Hester Latterly and of the post-Crimea period in England. Nightingale was a suffragist (one of the first signers of a petition for woman suffrage which was circulated by her friends, John Stuart Mill and his wife Harriet Taylor); one of the first statisticians -- and one of the first members of the Statistical Society in England; a consultant to Queen Victoria and her consort, Prince Albert and a pragmatic and dedicated visionary who spent her life in the service to the sick to which she had dedicated herself when she was only 17. Unfortunately she contracted what was then called "Crimean Fever" during her service in the dreadful British military hospitals of the Crimean War. Recent research indicates that it was probably Brucellosis, caused by
an organism which is and was epidemic and endemic in that region and is characterized by remittant fevers and malaise. (It also occurs in the U.S. among persons who work with cattle and recent cases have been reported in the Western U.S.) Since the germ theory of disease was not available at that time, Nightingale was not diagnosed properly, though she shared the ailment with many others who had served in that region at that time. Hester reflects frequently on her admired mentor and role model, though she mistakenly describes Nightingale's intermittent illnesses as "hypochondria."
on August 31, 2001
Most of Anne Perry's works dwell on the darker aspects of human nature, notably various sexual perversions hidden under the veneer of upper-class and middle-class Victorian society. Some of her recent works especially in the Inspector Monk series have also dwelt upon the status of Victorian women of good families, notably the tremendous barriers imposed to them professionally in medicine. More recently, her books have touched more explicitly upon political issues of the day.
This is a slightly unusual Inspector Monk book, in that there is no sexual perversion hidden as the motive for a murder. I shouldn't give away too much of the plot for those who have not read this book. The story is about the fragility of reputation, the impossibly limited choices available to young women in that society, and the ways in which friendships can be misconstrued.
One of the most effective scenes for me was where Sir Oliver Rathbone (the defense lawyer) is neatly boxed in by a match-making mother, and the way in which he understands and reads the minds of the women around him. This is one of the reasons I have kept this particular book, above all the others.
The story-line is at least initially not as dark as the typical Anne Perry (warning: her works are not for the squeamish), with the first half of the book being about a trial for breach of promise brought against one of the most brilliant young architects who refuses to marry a young woman. Why he refuses to marry her is not made clear until the middle of the story, and it certainly comes as a shock to all concerned. The second half of the book is much darker, in that the murder is driven by the personal greeds of one of the principal characters in the trial. This person's crimes are only revealed right at the end, so in that respect, the book is an amazing cliff-hanger. We don't know if this person was guilty until the very end of the last murder.
I have to admit to some problems with this work. Firstly, the motive for the architect's murder is not made clear. One of the problems is that we never get into the mind of his murderer, and that person's past is reconstructed by Monk. From that point of view, this book is not that successful. In the past, I have fully understood why person X murdered person Y (or several persons). In this particular instance, the murder seemed to make no sense. Secondly, I find it hard to believe that while men would be taken in by a cross-dresser, that women would also be unable to identify a cross-dresser. I won't go into more details, but I am surprised that more suspicions were not raised early on.
Although the book is one of Perry's best, I have to also admit that her work is extremely dark. I began reading her in a very dark period in my life. Today, I find the earlier works very good but they are also deeply disturbing. Also in murder stories, I prefer a variety of motives when murder is committed, ranging from psychopathic casualness (chilling in of itself) to blind rage to greed or perversion. While Perry has been widening the range of motives for murder in her novels, most of her murders are committed for sexual (and the odd political) reasons. Reading a whole string of Perrys in a row can therefore be quite depressing and even yawn-producing [with the same narrow range of motives trotted out]. From that perspective, she has moved from being an auto-buy to a "wait-and-see". Perhaps, the surprise element in every series, even a great one, wears out sooner or later, and this has happened with the two brilliant series created by Perry. I still think she has a lot of talent in her; it is just that I no longer resonate with most of her stories.
on August 21, 2001
This book is a must read for those who love unexpected outcomes of the book!! I was assigned to read this for school, but I thoroughly enjoyed it to its fullest! The setting and language used make it a whole different society from today's world. It is an escape from our world, and sets the reader in a world of courtesy, rumors, elegant charm, riches, and scandal, which describe the Victorian England setting. Perry portrays her thoughts and ideas through masterful writing skills which draw the reader right into to the novel, just as if the reader was part of the gallery for Mellville's trial. It is hard to put down, and each chapter does not focus on one character, but portrays the lives of different characters with different occupations and lifestyles. It is also a book that makes you think of the tactics that each character might try next, in order to succeed. So relax, fix yourself a cup of tea, and enjoy your reading time as you travel far back into Victorian England for a story that is riveting and stirring to the emotions, while giving you a good feeling for the 'good guy'!
on August 4, 2001
As a long-time fan of Anne Perry, I decided to check out this one as a book-on-tape (after all, that's how I stumbled on my first Anne Perry novel, Pentecost Alley). That was a while back, and I am now reading the novel, because I finished the audio version with a bad taste in my mouth. I confess, it is a different experience to read a mystery when you already know the resolution. Basically, I am advising people to check out the book, but not the audio version. I was very disappointed with Mr. Jones' representation of Hester's character, among others; listening to him read, she came off as a whining shrew. My advice? Read the book, skip the book-on-tape.
on May 17, 2001
Perry again delivers a book full of evocative Victorian details. She manages to give a feeling of what life was like in such a different time period -- but she's done it before, and better, in some of her earlier books. This time she's on a feminist soapbox about the treatment of talented women in an age when a woman's place was in the home (whether decorating it or scrubbing it) -- and she has her two continuing male characters, Oliver Rathbone and William Monk, delivering most of the (quite unlikely) feminist rhetoric. The ending wraps up two divergent storylines too neatly -- the coincidences just are not credible.
on May 26, 2000
I read this mystery set in Victorian England to ascertain how one of these breach of promise cases worked back then. They were abolished in my state several decades ago as being too behind the times with the gains women had made in the market place. In this mystery, a young lady and her family sue the architect who had been building a house for her father for not going forward and marrying her. It's a fascinating case to watch unfold and to see the mystery behind it develop. However, I don't know any of these continuing characters the author uses in her mysteries so that aspect was less successful with me. Also, there's an incredible coincidence that develops at the end of solving this case that the odds were just too long against. An enjoyable read but I'm not rushing out to buy more from this series.
on April 3, 2000
This latest in Perry's series about Monk and Hester Latterly continues the personal thread of their relationship along with a tantalizing mystery so well set in Victorian England that you can feel and smell the story! Go back and read every one of the books in this series!