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A Sudden, Fearful Death by Anne Perry
This is book 4 in the William Monk series. I reviewed the first three books (plus book 8, since I started out of order) in the last installment of our little book club, and if you were there for that, you know that I FREAKING LOVE THIS SERIES. William Monk is an amnesiac detective in Victorian England. He lost his memory in a carriage accident and has been slowly piecing together who he is by observation, deduction, and the occasional flashback which breaks through the wall of his consciousness at inopportune times. He often works with nurse Hester Latterly, a willful, independent lady who is not at all his cup of tea, but is nevertheless his most loyal friend. Also in the mix is Oliver Rathbone, a prestigious barrister who helps in the pursuit of justice.
The plot of this book centers on Prudence Barrymore, a talented and ambitious nurse (she wanted to be a doctor, at a time when women were not admitted into medical schools) who has been strangled at the hospital where Hester is currently working. Who would have strangled Prudence and thrown her down a laundry chute? Was it some madman who found his way into the hospital? Was it another nurse who was jealous of her abilities? Was it a doctor who thought she was too uppity for her own good? (Hester wouldn’t know anything about that, lol.) This was a good story, but I did think everyone spent an inordinate amount of time befuddled and utterly missing the key to solving the mystery; I mean, I know they were Victorians and their thought processes were subject to their worldview, but HELLO, MCFLY, WHAT DO WE KNOW ABOUT PRUDENCE? SHE WANTED TO BE A DOCTOR! But, you know, that’s part of this series’ charm, the fact that they’re all Victorians who, despite their relative sophistication, still have trouble wrapping their heads around some things. 4/5 stars
The Sins of the Wolf by Anne Perry
Monk #6, and this time–you’ll never guess–Hester herself has been framed for the murder of one of her patients. The victim was an elderly woman whose family are sure a bunch of odd ducks, almost all of whom had some plausible motive for killing her. The one person we know didn’t do it is Hester. Can Monk and Rathbone prove her innocence in time? Complicating matters is the fact that the crime technically took place in Scotland, so she has to be tried by the Scottish justice system. Och! This is a very exciting book with lots of intrigue and recurring-character development (best appreciated if you’ve read the previous five books). The climax is action-packed and INSANE. But also glorious. 5/5 stars
Cain His Brother by Anne Perry
Monk #7. Businessman Angus Stonefield has gone missing; his wife, worried for his safety, hires Monk to find him. Actually, what she fears is that his brother, Caleb–a violent man who prefers a life on the streets to respectable work–has murdered him. Monk finds evidence that indicates foul play was most likely, but he needs to find proof of death so that Stonefield’s widow can have his estate settled. Turns out what is really going on is much weirder than anyone could have guessed. I mean, really weird. But interesting. 4/5 stars
Weighed in the Balance by Anne Perry
Monk #7. Rathbone agrees to defend Countess Zorah Rostova against a charge of slander. She says the onetime ruler of her small German principality was murdered by his own wife, who was responsible for his exile to Venice years ago. (She wasn’t the girl his mom wanted for him.) No one has any evidence of this. Rathbone doesn’t even know why he took the case, but he hopes Monk can figure out who really did it. This requires him to travel to Venice and examine the prince’s past acquaintances. I found the German politics alternately fascinating and tedious. But Perry has a way of holding my interest even when I don’t want to be interested. 4/5 stars
A Breach of Promise by Anne Perry
Are you starting to get the picture here? I’m really extremely fond of this series. And I am really extremely fond of this particular book. It’s #9. (Recall that I had already read #8 out of order, but I re-read it right before starting this one.) Rathbone has taken on another hopeless case–will the man ever learn? (Signs point to no.) Killian Melville is a gifted architect–a genius, really–who has found himself unwittingly engaged to the daughter of one of his wealthy patrons. No offense to the girl–whose name is Zillah, if you can believe that–she’s perfectly lovely, but he does not want to marry her, he cannot marry her, and he will not marry her. He won’t say why, which frustrates Rathbone no end, but perhaps Monk can figure it out.
There is a plot twist about half-ish-way through, so I can’t say much more, but much of the book is a commentary on the status of women during this time. Plot-wise, coincidence plays a bigger role than usual in the resolution–the willing suspension of disbelief is stretched quite a bit, but I decided it made for a great story, so screw it. Also–no spoilers, but the ending of this book was so good. The last page was worth a whole extra star by itself. I’m a sucker for that crap. 5/5 stars
The Twisted Root by Anne Perry
Monk #10. A young man hires Monk to find his fiancee, who fled a garden party at his family’s home and hasn’t been seen since. Monk tracks down the carriage the woman left in, and nearby he finds the coachman, who has been murdered. Why did the woman change her mind about the marriage? What did she learn that made her get such terribly cold feet–and did it lead to cold-blooded murder?? Well. Remember when I said that situation in Cain His Brother turned out to be much weirder than anyone suspected? I was just kidding. This situation is REALLY MUCH WEIRDER than anyone suspected. 4/5 stars
Slaves of Obsession by Anne Perry
Monk #11. Monk and Hester must travel to America on the eve of the Civil War to find a young lady who has eloped with the Union soldier who may have murdered her father, an arms dealer who had agreed to sell weapons to the Confederacy. But did he really do it? It sure looks like it, and he’s kind of a douchebag, so we all want to believe he did it, but he insists he’s innocent, and his fiancee (they didn’t quite complete the elopement) refuses to doubt him. They both end up getting prosecuted for the father’s murder, and Rathbone agrees to defend them. Well, it wouldn’t be the first time Monk has worked both sides of a case. This book deals with some interesting ethical questions–how far should one go when fighting for a cause, particularly when the cause has already lead to war? 5/5 stars
Funeral in Blue by Anne Perry
Monk #12. Two women are found strangled in an artist’s apartment. One of them is the wife of Dr. Kristian Beck, a Bohemian doctor Monk knows through Hester and his erstwhile benefactress, Lady Callandra Daviot. Dr. Beck is arrested for both murders. Rathbone is off in France or Italy or some such place, so he’s not available to defend him. Fortunately, Beck’s father-in-law believes in his innocence enough that he’s willing to take the case himself. You have to admit, the optics are great. Monk, Hester, and Callandra are desperate to have Beck exonerated. Monk even travels to Vienna in the hope of discovering something from Beck and his wife’s past lives as revolutionaries (!) that will shed light on the murders. This was a riveting read, right up until the end, which came out of literally freaking nowhere. After all those plot twists and turns, I felt a tad ripped-off. I would recommend this book for die-hard Monk fans and Monk completists only. Of which I am one. 3/5 stars
Death of a Stranger by Anne Perry
Monk #13. This is the book where Monk finally finds out the truth about his past. He’s learned bits and pieces over the years, but now a case involving a railroad company and fraud intersects with a past case in which he was a star player. Was Monk himself guilty of fraud, as a businessman–or of an even worse betrayal? How will the knowledge of who he once was affect who he is now? A reasonably satisfying resolution to this long-standing mystery. And yes, he still has amnesia. 4/5 stars
And no, this isn’t the end of the Monk series. But it is the end of this blog post and the psycho-killers edition of this installment. Or the psycho-killers installment of this edition. Next time: Romance!
I seem to be having some difficulty keeping up this breakneck pace of blogging more than once a month. Or so. But let’s not waste time with my usual self-flagellation. Let’s talk psycho killers.
Ice Cold by Tess Gerritsen
This is Rizzoli & Isles #8, and it’s a bit of a departure for the series. Maura Isles is in Wyoming for a medical examiners conference, and feeling out of sorts with her secret-boyfriend-the-Catholic-priest, she decides to be spontaneous and go on a skiing trip with an old med school acquaintance and his daughter and another couple. Of course they get stranded in the snow in the middle of nowhere. (Is there anywhere else in Wyoming? I kid!) But as luck would have it, the middle of nowhere is not far from a hastily-abandoned religious commune. So they’ve found shelter, but where the heck are all the folks who used to live here (obviously not too long ago)? Also, there’s no cell phone service and no one knows they’re missing and one of them is seriously injured and needs a hospital, not makeshift medical care by a couple of coroners. Also, they’re not quite as alone as they thought: someone is out there, possibly a predator. It’s a very stressful situation for Maura, who is not the outdoorsy type and is also used to working with patients who are already dead.
This was a very exciting read, as I remember, but I also remember that the climactic action and the ending were kind of nuts. Every time you thought it was over, IT WAS NOT OVER. As I said on Goodreads, save something for the next book, Tess! But I appreciated how Maura’s character evolved during this story. 3.5/5 stars
The Silent Girl by Tess Gerritsen
Rizzoli & Isles #9. This is about a murder in Boston’s Chinatown which turns out to be connected to an old murder-suicide case that left five people dead. The (alleged) murderer-suicider’s widow always insisted that her husband was innocent and the true killer had never been caught. There’s a lot of intrigue and mystical Chinese martial arts stuff in this book. It was diverting enough, but also kind of random and frustrating. 3/5 stars
Ripper: A Novel by Isabel Allende
Should this be under the “highbrow” category? It’s a bit more “literary” than your average psycho-killer book, but in the end, it is a psycho-killer book. At the center are Indiana, a hippy-dippy holistic healer, and her daughter, Amanda, who is fascinated by the darker things in life, but she comes by it honestly, as her dad is the SFPD’s deputy chief of homicide. Indiana and Amanda’s dad have been long divorced, and Indiana has been in a long-term relationship with Alan, an older, old-money rich dude who’s kind of a douchebag, but she’s also friends with Ryan, a battle-scarred former Navy SEAL who is in love with her. There have been a string of mysterious, seemingly-unrelated murders in the city, and Amanda and her online friends (and her grandpa, Indiana’s dad–it’s a long story) start to figure out the connections. I forgot to mention that Amanda’s grandmother (on her father’s side) has foretold an ominous fate for Indiana, so it becomes extremely important that Amanda and her fellow Scoobys figure out who the real killer is, pronto.
This was an enjoyable, intriguing read, despite its leisurely pace. It took a while for me to read, and it was pretty dark, probably more so because it was so character-centered. It’s not your usual crime thriller. I felt a real sense of dread as the solution to the mystery unfolded. 4/5 stars
For the Sake of Elena by Elizabeth George
This is Inspector Lynley #5. Lynley and Havers are called in to investigate the murder of a deaf student at Cambridge. The student, Elena, is the daughter of a professor, and she had her secrets. Her father, who is poised for a big academic appointment, has his secrets too–including an affair with a local artist. Who had reason to kill Elena? Was it one of her (many) paramours? Was it her jealous step-mother? Was it someone else you’d never guess in a million years? What more is her father hiding?
Initially I found the mystery’s resolution a bit unbelievable. But the more I thought about it, I decided it was actually pretty interesting. I can’t say anything else without giving away the ending. 4/5 stars
The Kept Woman by Karin Slaughter
So this book came out in September, and I still can’t believe I totally forgot about it until January! This is book 8 in the Will Trent series, which I don’t think can be fully appreciated out of order, so if you haven’t read the first seven books, I suggest you get started. Will and the Georgia Bureau of Investigation have been called to investigate a murder at an old construction site. The victim turns out to be a former cop. Evidence at the crime scene indicates that there was another victim, Will’s estranged wife, Angie, who managed to escape but left behind so much blood that it’s doubtful she has survived. Will becomes obsessed with finding Angie alive, which puts a real crimp in his relationship with Sarah. (It’s a long story. Seven books’ worth!) Much is revealed about Will’s and Angie’s pasts, and Will makes some substantial progress in his project of becoming an emotionally functional human being, despite his traumatic childhood (and, frankly, adulthood). Plus, I’m kind of a sucker for Will Trent. 5/5 stars
Missing Joseph by Elizabeth George
Inspector Lynley #6. A vicar in Lancashire is dead–officially, the victim of accidental poisoning…but was it really accidental? The allegedly-accidental poisoner has only lived in the village for a couple years, and she’s kind of an odd bird–anti-social and very protective of her teenage daughter, who is secretly having an affair with a local boy, much to her mother’s dismay. But look here, despite being anti-social, the mother is in turn having an affair with the local constable who investigated the “accidental” poisoning. Seem sketchy? Lynley thinks so, too. But everything is much more complicated than it seems.
This book can stand alone, in theory, but the reason I liked it best of all the Lynley books I’ve read so far is that in addition to the mystery plot, which is good, there are developments in the recurring characters’ story arcs which can’t be fully appreciated, obviously, if you haven’t read the other books. But there are also interesting questions about ethics and justice. Content warning: A scene of sexual violence. 4/5 stars
The Cater Street Hangman by Anne Perry
I so enjoy Perry’s William Monk series that I decided I would give her Thomas Pitt series a whirl. This is the first book in that series, and I have to say, I was underwhelmed. It started out promisingly enough. Women have been getting garrotted in the respectable neighborhood of Cater Street, and everyone is beside themselves with fear. Detective Inspector Thomas Pitt has deduced from available evidence that the murderer must be someone who lives in the neighborhood, so now everyone is suspicious in addition to fearful. Which of their neighbors has been garroting ladies and girl servants? Charlotte Ellison is afraid she doesn’t want to find out, but Inspector Pitt won’t leave her family alone. Come to think on it, her father and brother-in-law have been acting rather peculiar lately.
I wanted to like this story better than I did. The mystery itself was fine, I guess. I mean, the ending was sort of wackadoo, in my opinion, but the bigger problem for me was that I just didn’t care about any of the characters. Also, it just seemed to drag on and on. When I’m reading a Monk book, it goes so fast, and with this one I kept checking to see how many more pages I had left, and the answer was always too many. I’ll say this about Thomas Pitt: he’s no William Monk. Not by a long shot! 2.5/5 stars
Evelyn, After by Victoria Helen Stone
Evelyn is just an average suburban housewife. She’s married to a prestigious psychiatrist, and they have a son who is about to go off to college. One night she is woken from a sound sleep to come to the aid of her husband, who has been in an accident. He says his car hit a deer. But Evelyn discovers her husband has been having an affair, and he did not hit a deer that night but a teenage girl. If the truth comes out, her husband will be ruined, and in turn, Evelyn’s life will also be ruined, and their son won’t be too thrilled with the fallout either. So it’s tempting to do as her husband says and just keep quiet and no one will ever have to know. But she’s so pissed off about the affair that she becomes obsessed with the other woman, who was in her husband’s car at the time of the accident, and who her husband says was driving. Evelyn’s desire for revenge takes over, and she starts down a very dubious path.
This is a reasonably interesting psychological thriller, but its big flaw, in my opinion, is that Evelyn is a big dope and I didn’t like her at all. Maybe I saw too much of myself in her–frustrated artist, passively gave the best years of her life to her family, gained too much weight, doesn’t have any decent clothes–but fortunately, my husband is not an unethical, cheating douchebag, so probably I will never be tempted to do the things Evelyn ends up doing. Except re-invest in my career and buy some new clothes. 3/5 stars
I Let You Go by Claire Mackintosh
This book begins with a brutal scene of a little boy pulling away from his mother and running into the street, only to get hit by a car. The next chapter has us following Jenna Gray, an artist who moves to the English coast to start a new life, hoping to escape the painful memories of her old one, especially the terrible car accident that keeps playing over and over in her mind. We learn that her ex is a jerk and she is mourning the death of her son. Meanwhile, two Bristol police officers are trying to get to the bottom of this horrible hit-and-run that claimed the life of a five-year-old child; a year later, the perpetrator is still unknown and at large.
I can’t say much more without getting into major spoilers, but suffice it to say that there’s a plot twist and then there’s another plot twist, and it’s all pretty exciting stuff. This book has been compared to The Girl on the Train and Gone Girl, but I think I liked it better than both of them (although I liked Gone Girl quite a bit). I could have done without the angsty relationship between the two detectives (a man and a woman–you know how that goes!), but I guess if Mackintosh ever hopes to use these particular characters in another book, it makes for good back story. Content warning: Scenes of sexual violence. 4/5 stars
Are those all the psycho-killer books I read during this two-month period? Not by a long shot, gentle readers. But all the other ones were William Monk books, and I decided to give them their own post, or this one would be way too long. Stay tuned, friends. Adieu.