RogerBW's Blog

A Dangerous Mourning, Anne Perry 19 April 2018

1992 mystery, second in Perry's William Monk series (Victorian police work). Over the winter of 1856-1857 in London, Monk is assigned to a new case: a young widow living in her father's house, found stabbed to death in her bed.

This isn't a mere series entry, though, as Monk continues to clash with his superior in the police force, and ends up getting sacked about two-thirds of the way through the book (and then sets up as a private enquiry agent). Most of the book deals with the utter unconcern by the rich for the lives of the lower classes, as well as observations of what's clearly a profoundly unhappy household.

Because that's not something Monk can see except during his interviews, Hester Latterly, formerly a nurse in the Crimea, returns and works as an undercover informer in the household. (I suspect there's meant to be a slow-burn romance going on, but it's mostly slow and very little burn. And, aha, I realise in retrospect that the pleasant lawyer who comes in to provide assistance is slated to be Monk's romantic rival.)

As before, the Crimean War casts a long shadow, but Perry is more interested in the period than in the crime; there's an inconsistency which I'd have thought that the most basic examination of the body should have spotted. (But then I haven't committed as many murders as Perry.) (As far as you know.) The reader is asked to take a great logical leap which, while it's mildly foreshadowed, doesn't seem quite to link up with what actually hapened, and one key clue makes little sense; but perhaps I'm disappointed because I'd predicted a greater level of hidden depravity than was actually revealed in the end.

The story often seems quite similar to that of The Face of a Stranger, and given how many of the servants tell Monk that obviously he won't accuse any of the family, I rather expected him to say "well, during my last, highly publicised, investigation, I did end up accusing one of the family". (The aftermath of that investigation is mentioned here, so it's not just the author wanting to avoid letting readers in on the answer to the first book if they're starting the series here.)

There's a fair bit of infodumping on the operation of a Victorian household; the book feels padded even though it's not actually hugely long. While I'm not desperate to read the next one I'll probably do it eventually. Followed by Defend and Betray.

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