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by Anne Perry
Ballantine, August 2011
320 pages
ISBN: 0345510607

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

ACCEPTABLE LOSS, Anne Perry's latest addition to the Monk series, begins right after the end of the last Monk installment. For fans of this series, it is an illuminating continuation of the events of that previous book, EXECUTION DOCK. We get many insights into the inner lives of the characters we have grown to know and care aboutóbesides Hester and William Monk, we read about the lawyer, Oliver Rathbone and his wife Lady Margaret. However, if you are a reader new to this series, ACCEPTABLE LOSS may not be quite as meaningful or as fascinating.

A dead body is found in the river. The victim had been bludgeoned and strangled before being dumped in the river. Since Monk is now commander of the River Police, it is his case, but one that links to a dark matter with which he has been already dealing. The dead man is Mickey Parfitt, the proprietor of an evil river boat. As in the previous novel, Monk discovers that kidnapped children, little boys some as young as five years old, are being physically and sexually abused on this boat for the twisted pleasure of rich patrons. Although the previous case was closed with the gruesome death of another proprietor, Jericho Phillips, the question of who has been funding these indecent and horrifying events is still open. It seems that the boat exists not just as a venue for obsessive crime, but also as a means to blackmail the people who indulge in these behaviors. Someone is bankrolling the whole endeavor and using photos of the participants in a vast blackmail scheme. The victim has been strangled with a distinctive silk necktie, which leads Monk to a profligate young man who does seem to be involved in this distasteful business. Yet there is reason for doubt. Before one of the men in the previous book killed himself, he identified Arthur Ballinger as the mastermind. But Ballinger is someone seemingly above reproach, a respected lawyer as well as the father of Lady Margaret Rathbone.

To complicate matters further, Monk and Hester have taken in a boy, Scuff, who was rescued from the first boat. He is emotionally fragile and they care about him. It seems that the first steps to his healing must be to know that they are doing everything possible to rid London of the scourge of abuse and pornography from which he escaped.

Any writer who chooses to create a series with recurring characters must decide how much background material will work in each new book in order to appeal to all readers, new ones as well as those who bring knowledge of the past to their reading. If you care about the characters in ACCEPTABLE LOSS because you have a history of following their lives and adventures, this book will be quite intriguing. Friendships are desperately tested and a marriage seems doomed to fail. Yet if you are new to this series, the events portrayed here may not resonate so strongly. This seems to be a middle book in a trilogy, as the book ends with other unsolved murders that will seemingly be addressed in another bookóa book that one may hope does not fall prey to the same problems as this one. In addition, Perry seems to be overly fixated on the rather hard to take social crime of child abuse and pornography. I, for one, would like her to move on to another theme.

Anne Corey is a writer, poet, teacher and botanical artist in New York's Hudson Valley.

Reviewed by Anne Corey, August 2011

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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