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BOOK REVIEW: 'Acceptable Loss': William and Hester Monk Shine in Anne Perry's Sequel to 'Execution Dock'
Friday, August 19, 2011 - 17:55 Reviewed by David M. KinchenIf you've read Anne Perry's 2009 novel "Execution Dock" featuring William and Hester Monk, her new "Acceptable Loss" (Ballantine Books, 320 pages, $26.00) will sound familiar. If you haven't, not to worry: Perry has included more than enough information from the previous novel to make "Acceptable Loss" stand on its own two legs.
Of course, you wouldn't have said "legs" in the Victorian London period of the novel: maybe "limbs" or, better yet, you wouldn't mention it at all in an era when even piano legs were clothed in fabric. Underneath all that hypocrisy is the depraved, not-so-hidden London that is familiar to those who've read previous William Monk novels, as well as Dickens and Wilde.
As the commander of the River Police that patrols London's longest street, the River Thames, William Monk has survived the ordeal he experienced in "Execution Dock", where he discovered boats anchored in the Thames that served up pornography and sex between men and very young boys. Monk knows the case isn't closed; he still has to find out who's been financing these boats.
When the body of a small-time crook named Mickey Parfitt washes up on the tide, most people are tempted to say -- or think -- "good riddance, he deserved it". But when the coroner shows Monk an expensive silk cravat that was used to strangle Parfitt after he was bashed on the head,, the fearless and methodical detective -- assisted by his wife Hester and a young boy named Scuff whom they rescued in the previous novel -- realizes that Parfitt is only a pawn in a dangerous and sordid game. Monk begins a relentless search that connects the cravat to a prominent young man of "substance" and men at the highest levels of English society. It's a dangerous game for Monk, who could lose his job if he persists in his probing.
It turns out that Parfitt had been running another sex show boat, with support from a rich man of "substance" who runs a blackmailing scheme, taking photographs of the men of society in compromising positions with the young boys.
"Acceptable Loss" is a strongly character driven novel, as are all of Perry's novels. We care about Monk, Scruff and Hester, who served as a nurse in the Crimean War some 15 years before the action of the novel.
The war between Britain and Russia was fought between October 1853 and February 1856 and was notable for the nurses -- most notably Florence Nightingale and Mary Seacole -- who developed modern procedures while treating the wounded soldiers. The war, another one of the misbegotten conflicts of Europe and mankind in general, prefigured the American Civil War in its extensive reporting -- by William Russell of The Times (of London) -- and photography by Roger Fenton. It's also famous -- or infamous -- for the disastrous "Charge of the Light Brigade."
"Acceptable Loss" features a dramatic courtroom battle, where Monk is pitted against his old friend lawyer Sir Oliver Rathbone, who is defending a man whose daughter, Oliver's wife Margaret, is both a good friend of Hester and supporter of Hester's free clinic and shelter for street women and prostitutes. Parfitt's murder leads to startling revelations and destroys friendships that seemed permanent. It's vintage Anne Perry.
Anne Perry's website: www.anneperry.com. Publisher's website: www.ballantinebooks.com.
About the Author
Anne Perry is the bestselling author of two acclaimed series set in Victorian England: the William Monk novels, including Execution Dock and Dark Assassin, and the Charlotte and Thomas Pitt novels, including Treason at Lisson Grove and Buckingham Palace Gardens. She is also the author of a series of five World War I novels, as well as eight holiday novels, most recently A Christmas Odyssey, and a historical novel, The Sheen on the Silk, set in the Ottoman Empire. She lives in Scotland. For David M. Kinchen's review of Treason at Lisson Grove, click: http://www.huntingtonnews.net/3578. For Kinchen's review of The Sheen on the Silk, click: http://archives.huntingtonnews.net/columns/100518-kinchen-columnsbookreview.html