UK - Headline
US  - Ballantine - 1999
ISBN 0747262810 - Hardback

Reviewed by Rachel Hyde, MyShelf.Com
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Monk and Hester have finally taken the plunge and tied the knot – not a marriage made in heaven so we might just be spared the protestations of undying love and general cosiness that erodes some of the grittiness from Perry’s Pitt series.  This time they have a baffling case on their hands and I found this book a real page-turner.  Lucius Stourbridge is holding a party to celebrate his engagement to attractive widow Miriam Gardiner when she vanishes with the coachman.  Later he is found dead outside the home of a nurse and colleage of Hester’s who looked after Miriam for years when she was found terrified and alone years before.  What is her secret, and what was so terrible that she refuses to tell anybody even when faced with the gallows?

There is much to admire in this tale and not least the teasing plot.  Perry paints a grim and highly realistic picture of a hospital and the fate of those too poor to afford medicines and nursing that has all too much relevance today in the light of NHS problems.  Who says an interest in history is just dwelling in the past?  Perry’s writing has a grip and immediacy that never fails to hold me and this book is a particularly good example of this spell.  She will have to be careful how she treats the marriage of her two sleuths, both far stronger and more realistic characters than Pitt and Charlotte.  Don’t let these gripping tales of the mean streets of mid Victorian London degenerate into cosiness!  Long may she harrow and reveal the seamy underbelly of high (and low) society.


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