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Acceptable Loss
Inspector William Monk Mysteries, No 17
Anne Perry

Ballantine Books
August 9, 2011 / ISBN: 0345510607
Historical Mystery / London / Victorian

Reviewed 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.

Reviewed 2012