I reviewed Anne Perry’s first William Monk mystery here. This one, A Dangerous Mourning, is similar: a woman is stabbed to death in the home of her upper class Victorian family. No one could have possibly gotten out of the house after the murder, so the murderer is one of the family or the servants.
In the last novel, Detective Monk worked to solve a mystery while struggling with amnesia after an accident. Little by little memories come back to him, but he spends much of the book trying to figure out who he was and if he had any close relationships. In this book, he is still dealing with the memory-loss, a subplot that didn’t feel gimmicky at all; it enhanced the story.
Featured prominently from the last book is independent, out-spoken Hester, who was a nurse in the brutal Crimean War. She is Monk’s equal in every way—she’s intelligent, perceptive and has the same edge to her personality. Initially the two clashed, but in this book they begin to develop a deeper trust as Hester assists Monk with the case.
Perry is a feminist writer, though I don’t want to be too reductive. But it’s clear from reading her books (I’ve read many before the Monk series) that she values strong, opinionated, passionate women who fight society for their place at the table. In the case of this book, Hester’s medical expertise is dismissed by male doctors, as they expect nurses to only clean up and follow orders. The sexism that Hester deals with in her profession—where she ultimately loses her job after defying the doctor on duty to treat a sick little boy—is not something she suffers quietly.
This book was another strong mystery with well-drawn characters and excellent writing (though Perry overuses some phrases, like “he answered tartly”—her constant emphasis on Monk’s difficult nature is a little overdone. We get it!). I think I’m going to stop at book number two for now, but will probably go back to read some more.