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on June 23, 2017
Great product and transaction!
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on May 21, 2002
Anne Perry charmed me with the Thomas and Charlotte Pitt series first. I imagine Thomas to be very much like Mulder from the X-Files. Anyway, I made the mistake of reading one of the later Monk novels out of desperation for more Anne Perry, and just plain lost interest. Then, I found "Face of a Stranger" and started the series in order, and can picture Timothy Dalton as Monk, Hester Latterly as Emma Thompson, and I care so much about these main characters that even when the pace got mired down in Monk's flashbacks, I had the motivation to keep going. It's worth it in this most unusual approach. I highly appreciate Ms. Perry's respect for her readers; there is a definite level of erudition here without becoming pedantic. As a teacher, I recommend these books as great historical fiction, with plenty of insight on the lower classes and the plight of women. Stick around for the exquisite courtroom scene. Oliver Rathbone is a well-balanced, realistic character, and his father Henry is a dear. Callandra Daviot is as important to the Monk novels as Aunt Vespasia is to the Pitt series. To sum up: start at the beginning of each series to get the most out of them. They don't stand alone nearly as well as some series novels.
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on March 14, 2001
I've only started reading Anne Perry a couple months ago and started with the William Monks books as they seemed a little more recent and accessible. I've always been a lover of Victorian mysteries and this has to be one of the best I have ever read and one of the better books I have read period. Basically the book can be broken into thirds, first third is relatively interesting as it lays out the opening facts in the case, the second half gets extremely frustrating and to some degree boring and the last third will keep you up until 4AM in the morning like it did me because you can't put it down. I think the second third was done on purpose as I think Anne wanted us to be as frustrated as the characters were at the lack of progress in the case. You do start to suspect the motive but it unravels slowly and when it does, all I can say is "Oh my god!" The last third is riveting as you can't wait to see how it all plays out especially in light of Victorian social mores. Don't get me wrong, Anne Perry has a number of annoying quirks in her writing, she loves SAT words like prevaricate and equivocate and uses them every chance she gets, her use of third person omniscient gets a little out of hand and her characters are a little slow to deduce things that you know they should have 100 pages earlier. If you can get past these difficulties and some others, however, Anne Perry creates very strong characters and in this case, a riveting tale.
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on May 29, 2000
You might think that a confession in the first few chapters of a mystery novel would be a bad idea. Why keep reading? Anne Perry proves she knows best once again in this, the third novel in the William Monk series. Here we read on page after exciting page because we want to know WHY Alexandra Carlyon would murder her husband, Thaddeus.
Fans of Anne Perry know that the author is fascinated with secrets, who keeps them, and why. Because this book focuses on disclosures in Alexandra Carlyon's murder trial, rather than a murder investigation per se, we are able to follow each labrynthine path that the author lays down. Did Alexandra murder her husband because of jealousy? Because she was in love with someone else? Or to protect someone she loved?
This book is gripping and intriguing--a real page-turner. If you like Victorian mysteries and the modern TV series Law and Order you will love this book. Part detective work, part legal work, the case will keep you guessing!
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on July 3, 2001
The first two books in this series featured Monk with assistance as needed from freelance nurse, Hester, and the attorney, Rathbourne. The dynamic changes a bit in this book. Hester has the leading role as she is the link to the family of both the victim and the accused. Likewise, since the arrest happens early in the book, much of the book focuses on the formation of a legal defense resulting in a much bigger role for Rathbourne. Monk isn't forgotten but his role is secondary. (Indeed, the handful of times where he explores his forgotten past are almost awkward interruptions in the flow of the book.) I liked this use of the three characters -- probably because I like Hester a great deal. She's feisty and smart.
The overall reading experience is a mixed bag. After an adequate start, the book really bogs down in the middle section. Some good editing would have trimmed about 30 pages. Fortunately, the final hundred pages are dandy -- more than making up for the tedium of the earlier parts of the book. It was also interesting to read a book that was focused on the motive for the crime rather than determining and locating the criminal.
As seems to be the case in all the Perry books I've read so far, the plot is focused on getting behind the facade of respectable upper class Victorian families. Who else would have the money to hire our heroes? I enjoy the upstairs/downstairs insights as well as the historical social commentary.
Bottom-line: I liked this Agatha nominated book. First time readers are strongly encouraged to read this series in order (starting with The Face of a Stranger).
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on June 3, 2001
The plot outline is this: A well-respected army general is murdered during a dinner party at the home of a friend. Soon his wife confesses to the crime, giving jealousy as her motive. Edith, the younger sister of the deceased general, is skeptical of the confession, and approaches her friend Hester for some help. Hester, in turn, enlists the famed attorney Oliver Rathbone and former Inspector William Monk to work on the case.
The first 250 pages are so boring and so empty that one wonders why Perry wrote the book at all. All three of the above-mentioned investigators go out to gather information and interview the witnesses and acquaintances of the principal parties. They find absolutely nothing. It soon becomes clear that the wife is lying about her motive, but everyone is mystified as to what the real motive is. So for 250 pages we get almost nothing except conversations among the three people, exchanging no information because there is no information to exchange, and becoming increasingly pessimistic about their chances to save the wife from being hanged.
A modern reader, on the other hand, has no trouble figuring out the wife's motive long before the people in the book do. So that element of suspense is missing. The only open question in the reader's mind is exactly how are the characters in the book going to find out the motive.
Not only are the first 250 pages excruciatingly boring, but also the book is poorly edited. There are several threads in the story which are confusing, and several times people do things, or omit doing things, for which the motivation is either nonexistent or poorly explained.
One of the subplots is Monk's emotional longing to reconstruct a case which this one reminds him of, but which he can't remember because of a head injury which impaired his memory. That previous case might have been in one of the prior Monk novels that I haven't read, but the entire subplot is just an annoyance and seems out of place in this novel.
So what's good about this novel? The last 100 pages. Once we get to the courtroom, Perry's writing suddenly becomes far more powerful and surehanded. The drama builds, and even though the reader knows all the facts by now, it is highly uncertain how the whole thing will play out during the trial. Rathbone (and therefore Perry) does a masterful job of sequencing the witnesses, the questions, and the testimony. The final ending is moving and satisfying.
Is the truly fine ending worth wading through the 250 pages of dross that precede it? Probably not. This is my fourth Anne Perry novel, and I know she can do much better than this. Read the others.
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on May 15, 2001
I try to avoid giving 1 star because there is usually some redeeming quality to a book/film. But not Anne Perry's work. Here is a woman who gives formula writers a good name.
She is completly unable to get to the point, chosing instead to just wander aimlessly on for page after page after page. At times there seems no end to it.
But I think this writer a fool and utterly over rated in every sense of the word. These books are meant to be about a certain William Monk. A Sherlock Holmes copy but with a twist. Quite interesting and one reason why I picked the first 3 books up. But he is only the star in the first book. AND HE DOESN'T SOLVE THE CRIME IN THE SECOND! Somebody else does. The third follows the same trend as the second. The true star is a nurse. A nurse who HAS no point to be in any story other than the first one. Of which she was an important player. But after that she has no place whatsoever to be in any of the other books. She is a nurse nothing more, yet everyone she knows dies. Death follows her and she interigates the grieving families like a police office. A ridiculas concept. William Monk who is an interesting character and who until fired from his position as an Inspector had every reason to be involved in the deaths without prior connection to the families. A concept that seems to be lost on perry. It's almost like she got bored with Monk after the first book and decided the nurse is a much more interesting character. On top of that, every book is the same. All the characters in them are clones of previous ones. And they are all sterotypes. There is no difference in their mannerisms, beliefs or reactions. They are just robots following a routine. They go on and on about the same things well after any reader has recieved the idea. She is so hooked on the setting that she loses in every department. Characters, story, plot, forward motion and the ambiance that Victorian London has all suffer because of it. These books would not have been anywhere near as popular if they had been written in a modern setting. .... If you wish to read Anne Perry then I suggest the first William monk book which I did enjoy, but then move on to other things.
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on December 8, 2000
I have read roughly 12 Anne Perry books so far. This was my 3rd William Monk book. In general I am finding I like the William Monk series a little more than the Thomas and Charlotte Pitt series. There are a few things that bug me about the way Anne writes, such as the term "pulled a small face" which seems to be used two or three times in every book, and also sometimes the mystery is given away too easily. I found in this book, I guessed who "the bad guys" were very early on, but I still could not put the book down because I wanted (and needed) to see if I was right. It had an element that was more horrifying than the typical Anne Perry book. The fact that I stayed up till 3 am to finish it on a work night means it definately rates 5 stars for me.
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on June 23, 1997
This novel features William Monk, Hester Latterly,and Oliver Rathbone. The mystery lies in the motive, and not the killer. The case looks most hopeless, and it is not until the defense case is almost over before the outcome is known.

In this novel, the author takes great pains to humanize Monk's memory lapses. We understand why he is not able to think of Hester as a romantic interest.

The key element that is Anne Perry's success is her knowledge of Victorian England. Her use of this historical era is sheer genius. I, therefore, found it odd that she used the word plastic in a description.

I would suggest to the reader that the next Anne Perry work would be Sins of the Wolf. Here the relationship between Monk, Rathbone, and Hester is put to the ultimate challenge.
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on April 25, 1998
This book seemed to go on and on long after any intelligent reader would have figured out the reason why Alexandra murdered her husband. The author, having set up several protagonists and unwilling to concentrate on one of them, seems to regard the time period of Victorian England, its social interactions and mores, as more important than fleshing out the characters or moving the plot along. Monk's investigations into his past, dropped in at inappropriate intervals, made me want to shout, "Enough, already."
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