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by Anne Perry
Ivy, September 1998
356 pages
ISBN: 0804117934

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

In recent years Anne Perry has soared to the best seller lists with her crime novels set in Victorian England. She writes two „series¾ detective novels, the first and more successful being the „Inspector Pitt¾ series and the second revolving around the darker more complex character of the policeman turned private investigator William Monk and the nurse Hester Latterley.

„The Silent Cry¾ is the eighth of the William Monk series and like many of her previous novels both in this series and the Pitt series it takes as its theme the hypocrisies of Victorian society.

It begins with the discovery of two bodies in the grim streets of the London slums. The older man, a respected middle class solicitor by the name of Leighton Duff lies beaten to death; the other, his son Rhys Duff, lies close to death. When he regains consciousness the horror of his experience has rendered him mute and his injuries preclude any other form of communication. Hester Latterly is employed to nurse the badly beaten young man as the police begin their investigation into the death of Leighton Duff.

At the same time Monk is commissioned by the owner of a sweatshop to find out who has been raping and beating the girls who work for her. These are part-time prostitutes, women with husbands and families who are forced to turn to a little part time prostitution to keep their families alive. Monk¼s investigations indicate that the rapes are carried out by three men of good breeding and indeterminate age. Inevitably the two cases begin to merge together and it seems that the rapist and the murderer of Leighton Duff may in fact be his own son, Rhys.

As always the picture Anne Perry paints of the underside of Victorian England is stark and believable. The hypocrisy of a society that will turn every stone to find the murderer of a respectable lawyer but will not lift a finger to help the women who are being raped and beaten is grimly portrayed. This is the London of Jack the Ripper, a dark and frightening place, contrasting with the genteel civility of the middle classes.

But sadly, this is not one of Perry¼s better books. In fact the denouement when it comes is an insult to a writer of Anne Perry¼s calibre. Within the last few pages of the book, with a still-mute Rhys on trial for his life (an unlikely scenario to begin with), Perry produces a „rabbit out of the hat¾ that leaves the reader feeling unsatisfied and cheated. Nothing in the rest of the book has foreshadowed this conclusion and one is left with the overwhelming impression that the writer herself did not know what the solution to the crime would be until the end of the novel.

Having churned out the last few pages it was as if she lacked the time or the energy to go back over the book and rectify the glaring errors that the solution demonstrates during the course of the novel. In fact quite the contrary. The crime may have been solved, for example, during the first chapter of the book as it would have presented itself to the very first doctor who examined young Rhys. Additionally the behaviour of a number of the characters should have been differently portrayed given the circumstances of the ending. Even the date of the crime seems to move during the course of the book. These sloppy inconsistencies ruin an otherwise interesting and intriguing tale.

Editor¼s Note: This review is based on the edition available in Singapore. The purchasing data are for the US edition.

Reviewed by Alison Brideson, May 2002

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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