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by Anne Perry
Headline, September 2011
448 pages
7.99 GBP
ISBN: 0755376854

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Inspector William Monk and his wife Hester have given shelter to a young boy, Scuff, whom they have rescued from a life of child abuse. Monk, Hester, and Scuff want to clean up the area and put a stop to the abuse, in order to protect other youngsters. The key lies in who funds the boats on which the evil practice takes place. A dead body is found in the Thames marshes and this provides a clue which begins the process of unravelling the situation with dire consequences for some of those close to the inspector.

The story proceeds at a cracking pace and raises some thought-provoking dilemmas. In particular, some interesting conflicts arise between principles of right and wrong as opposed to family loyalty. It is refreshing to have such depth to the characters revealed by their actions in the story rather than by description. Stereotypes are taken apart and reasons for actions are unearthed. Believable dialogue is used in a way that helps the flow of the story and it appears to match the context.

Also unstated is the period in which the novel is set. However, once again, the clues such as ferries across the Thames; carts; a barge with sails set; a black Gladstone bag; strings of lighters on the river; a shabby frock coat; facial scars of pox; hanging; a foundling hospital; a visiting card on a silver tray; gowns of silk; Cremorne gardens; and previous nursing in the Crimean War, all give the reader a good sense of the period. This is typical of the way the author encourages the reader to think. Much is learned about both people and places in this way. The dialogue too helps to locate the place of individual characters in society, with a fluent use of local dialect.

Much detail is given about the thoughts and fears of lawyers in a criminal court when the case eventually comes to be heard. The ways in which they construct arguments or wrong-foot their opponents provide a wonderful insight into the requirements of a lawyer’s role. The way in which the plot continues, even after a court verdict, keeps the interest going right to the final page.

The book as a whole is fluently written within the framework of a historical context. It appears to be very well researched and makes for an excellent read.

§ Sylvia Maughan is a retired university lecturer, based in Bristol.

Reviewed by Sylvia Maughan, June 2012

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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