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Blood on the Water, by Anne Perry

September 3, 2014

Blood on the Waters, by Anne Perry.  Ballantine Books (2014),  320 pages.

Another in a popular mystery series set in Victorian London and featuring William Monk and his friends and family.

Ann Perry is the widely recognized writer of historical mystery fiction. She has become an expert on the details of the high and low lives of Victorian Londoners with her novels about Thomas Pitt and the less aristocratic William Monk. This is another in the series featuring Monk, and it is a fine example of the genre in which Perry excels.

Monk is the head of the River Police. In previous novels he has suffered from amnesia about his childhood, worked as a detective for the Metropolitan police and, privately, married a woman who was formerly a nurse in the Crimean War. As this novel opens, he and an assistant are rowing on the Thames when a private cruise boat explodes nearby. It is a major tragedy with about 200 people killed. Instead of assigning Monk’s River Police to investigate, the case is turned over to the Metropolitan Police. A man is quickly accused and found guilty of the crime. But Monk is convinced that he is not the real criminal. Monk sets out to find the culprit and to determine why the justice system had decided to execute the wrong man.

As in many detective stories, the major focus of this book centers on figuring out who did the crime and why. For Perry, it also includes engaging portraits of a wide range of characters directly or indirectly involved. The underlying themes of the novel are subtle but meaningful. Monk and his wife have taken in a boy from the streets who is now a teenager. They struggle over how to teach him to respect traditional authorities at the same time they are proving those authorities are corrupt. Monk and others ponder how people decide if forced to choose between professional honor and beloved family members. In addition, some of the action concerns issues of evidence and truth, including the need to take seriously what the “invisible people” in a society have seen and experienced. These themes add an additional depth to the novel.

I recommend this book to all those who find enjoyment in this type of historical fiction.

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