Inspector William Monk Mysteries, No 17
August 9, 2011 / ISBN: 0345510607
Historical Mystery / London / Victorian
by L J Roberts
First Sentence: Hester was half-asleep when she heard the slight
sound, as if someone were taking in a sharp breath and ten letting
out a soft, desperate gasp.
Inspector William Monk and his wife, Hester, are still trying
to help young orphan Scuff overcome his horrific experience of being
kidnapped for use on a ship owned by Jericho Phillips used to "entertain"
wealthy, corrupt men. No one much cares that Mickey Parfitt has
been murdered, until the means of his death is discovered to be
an expensive custom silk cravat belonging to a wealthy young man.
In the investigation, they track Parfitt back to another such ship
where 14 young boys are found held captive. Before his suicide,
Lord Justice Sullivan, also involved in the previous case, had claimed
wealthy barrister Arthur Ballinger, was the power and money behind
the boat. A further complication is that the Monks' friend, barrister
Oliver Rathbone, is married to Ballinger's daughter.
To say Anne Perry is a superb writer is anything but hyperbole.
There is no one who better captures the Victorian period. From the
homes of the wealthy, to the lowest, meanest parts of London, she
creates a fully-realized world and time. Her detail is exacting;
answering any question a reader might have as to its veracity. She
doesn't paint the pretty picture, but the rough-edged, realistic
view of the time.
Perry clearly illustrates the misconceptions and bias formed by
people based only on social and economic differences. The subject
of pedophilia and pornography is timeless and terrible. She raises
strong moral and ethical issues, but never in a manner that is preachy
or strident. Perry clearly conveys the internal struggles which
can arise and asks very important questions about loyalty and power;
the greed for power even when used for good-but at which price.
The mystery itself is very strong; partly focused on the investigation
and partly on the courtroom scenes. Learning about legal and court
procedures of the time were fascinating. Nothing about her writing
is dry; but rather strongly emotional yet never maudlin. We are
left, at the end, with an open question but not one that is detrimental
to the story.
Although it can stand alone, Acceptable Loss reads best
as a continuation of the previous book Execution
Dock. Either way, I strongly recommend Acceptable Loss.