In this riveting new William Monk novel, Anne Perry delves into the diverse population of Victorian London, whose disparate communities force Monk to rethink his investigative techniques—lest he be caught in the crosshairs of violent bigotry.
In the course of his tenure with the Thames River Police, Commander Monk has yet to see a more gruesome crime scene: a Hungarian warehouse owner lies in the middle of his blood-sodden office, pierced through the chest with a bayonet and eerily surrounded by seventeen candles, their wicks dipped in blood. Suspecting the murder may be rooted in ethnic prejudice, Monk turns to London’s Hungarian community in search of clues but finds his inquiries stymied by its wary citizens and a language he doesn’t speak. Only with the help of a local pharmacist acting as translator can Monk hope to penetrate this tightly knit enclave, even as more of its members fall victim to identical brutal murders. But whoever the killer, or killers, may be—a secret society practicing ritual sacrifice, a madman on a spree, a British native targeting foreigners—they are well hidden among the city’s ever-growing populace.
With the able assistance of his wife—former battlefield nurse Hester, who herself is dealing with a traumatized war veteran who may be tangled up in the murders—Monk must combat distrust, hostility, and threats from the very people he seeks to protect. But as the body count grows, stirring ever greater fear and anger among the Hungarian émigrés, resistance to the police also increases. Racing time and the rising tide of terror all around him, Monk must be even more relentless than the mysterious killer, or the echoes of malice and murder will resound through London’s streets like a clarion of doom.
Release Date: September 19, 2017
This is the first book I’ve read by Anne Perry, and it’s the 23rd in the series, so I come into this at a disadvantage.
While the story itself reads fine as a stand-alone, I felt a disconnect with the characters. Monk’s character is stiff and distant and mostly one-dimensional. Given that this is his series, I expected – wanted – more flair from him. Hester, Monk’s wife, comes off as restrained to the point of being dull. In contrast, Fitz’s part is particularly well done. I felt his emotional turmoil in coping with the trauma he’d experienced during the war. Scuff, the young man Monk and Hester took in, also has more of a spark and feels better developed. I wound up liking Fitz and Scuff much more than I liked Monk and Hester, mainly because I got to know them better.
Monk had seen death before. It was a large part of his job. But this was more violent than usual and the raw smell of blood filled the air.
The plot takes on some compelling issues, including the trauma of war, prejudice, language barriers, and poverty. These aspects are well portrayed and thought-provoking.
In his mind, this room smelled not only of blood but of hatred… and something else… Fear?
The pace is a little slow for my taste. We spend a whole lot of time on the intricacies of medical care. Granted, the research here is impeccable and, in small doses, the content is interesting. But the long passages became repetitious and read a little like a historical medical text.
“I’m going to look for the vein and see if I can tie it, but I must be quick. He will not survive a long painful ordeal. Mix me colophonia…” she watched his eyes to be certain he understood “with powder of bark. And when I have it, prepare the draft of stomachic you gave him yesterday evening. Bring me also a small amount of good wine, and separately, in a spoon, a gram and a half of opium. Be absolutely exact.”
I wasn’t particularly surprised by any of the twists or the resulting conclusion. For the most part, I enjoyed the setting and getting to know all the minor characters more than I did Monk’s investigation.
Overall, this is one of those stories where the broad content left more of an impression than the individual characters or their personal stories did.
*I received an advance copy from the publisher, via Amazon Vine, in exchange for my honest review.*
Thanks for reading. 🙂