A Breach of Promise Mass Market Paperback – Sep 7 1999
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The promises that are breached, broken, and never born in Anne Perry's rich and resonant new William Monk mystery all have to do with the roles and positions of women in Victorian society. At the center of the book is a rousing courtroom drama, as young Zillah Lambert--daughter of a wealthy, well-meaning northern businessman and his socially ambitious wife--sues an immensely gifted architect, Killian Melville. Melville, Zillah argues, failed to live up to his promise of marriage and thereby ruined her chances of making any sort of acceptable match. Private detective Monk is brought into the case by lawyer Oliver Rathbone when his client (Melville), facing financial and social ruin, still refuses to offer any reason for his dastardly conduct.
Monk's attentions are occupied elsewhere, too. Hester Latterly, the courageous nurse who worked with Florence Nightingale in the Crimean War, and whose favors Monk and Rathbone both desire, is looking after a British officer, Gabriel Sheldon, who was badly wounded and disfigured in India. Gabriel's wife, Perdita, is having trouble adjusting to her husband's broken body and spirit. "It was not Perdita's fault that she was confused and frightened," Monk muses. "She had been protected all her short life. She had not chosen to be, it was her assigned role." Monk has also promised a housemaid in the Sheldons' service that he will look for her two little nieces--deaf and deformed from birth--who were abandoned by their mother almost 20 years before. As the cases tangle and combine (perhaps a tad too coincidentally for some tastes, but, then again, real life is full of coincidences), Perry manages to show us the many ways in which women were made to pay for their place in a male-dominated society. She also delivers a touching and surprisingly suspenseful story. Other Monk books in paperback: The Silent Cry, Cain His Brother, Defend and Betray, Weighed in the Balance. --Dick Adler --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Publishers Weekly
In this latest William Monk tale (after The Silent Cry, 1997), Perry offers her strongest indictment yet of Victorian England and a society "where beauty and reputation were the yardsticks of worth." Barrister Sir Oliver Rathbone defends Killian Melville, a talented young architect, in a breach of promise suit brought by Melville's benefactor, Barton Lambert, in support of Lambert's daughter Zillah. Melville insists that Mrs. Lambert, desperate that her daughter marry, misconstrued his friendship with the young woman. Meanwhile, Hester Latterly is hired to nurse Gabriel Athol, who was tragically injured in India and whose wife, Perdita, finds her desire to understand his suffering thwarted by a brother-in-law who insists that women be shielded from the realities of war and violence. Hester befriends Perdita's maid, Martha, who is desperate to find her two deaf, disfigured nieces who vanished years ago when her brother died and his wife disappeared. Rathbone hires Monk to investigate Melville and the Lamberts; Hester implores Monk to help Martha. The first case ends tragically before the startling truth behind Melville's refusal to marry is revealed; the second project ends on a happier note. Perry does a masterful job depicting Victorian hypocrisy regarding women. But she draws her stories together with an incredible connection whose dissonance spoils an otherwise exceptional novel. Mystery Guild main selection.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Top Customer Reviews
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."
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.Read more ›
Most recent customer reviews
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. Read morePublished 23 months ago by Gillian Sprawson
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. Read morePublished on March 7 2003 by Lois A. Quarles
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). Read morePublished on Aug. 4 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,... Read morePublished on May 17 2001 by Annag Chandler
I read this mystery set in Victorian England to ascertain how one of these breach of promise cases worked back then. Read morePublished on May 26 2000 by carol irvin
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... Read morePublished on April 3 2000 by Pat
I was up 'till 3am to finish it. The coincidences were a little much, but the suspense was grand. I think it was Perry's best yet (and I've read 'em all).Published on Feb. 28 2000 by ValJean Kluppel
This isn't usually my type of mystery book, however I found the view of Victorian England interesting. Read morePublished on Jan. 25 2000 by Old Fisherman