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Monday 8 August 2016

‘Revenge in a Cold River’ by Anne Perry

Published by Headline,
21 April 2016.
ISBN: 978-1-4722-1957-2

It is 1869 and, in many ways, life for William Monk is better than it has ever been: he is married to his deeply-loved wife, Hester; their adopted son, Scuff, is doing well in his apprenticeship to a doctor; Monk has many good friends and he is successful and respected in his job as Commander of the Thames River Police. However, Monk has two major drawbacks to his happiness. A long-standing problem is his memory loss caused by a carriage accident several years before and the insecurity and fear that come from knowing that there are other people in the world that know more about his past than he does. This is exacerbated by the suspicion that he had been a hard and arrogant person, who may have done things he would not be proud of nowadays. The other grief for Monk is that he still mourns the death of Orme, his mentor and friend, who had died in a battle with smugglers. Monk is convinced that the smugglers had been warned by a traitor and is almost certain that the guilt lies with McNab, a senior customs officer who hates Monk, although Monk does not know why.

Monk is summoned by McNab to investigate the death of an escaped prisoner who had drowned and then been shot. Monk does not know what is going on but he is sure that McNab is scheming to make trouble for him.

In a more exclusive and wealthier part of London, Beata York is released from marriage to a sadistic, powerful man when her husband dies. To the outside world, Ingram York was a respected, almost revered High Court Judge, in private he was a monster and sexual bully. Over a year before, in a violent rage, Ingram York had tried to assault a guest, Oliver Rathbone, but before the blow could strike he had fallen into a fit and been transported to a private hospital, where he had been cared for ever since. Beata has dutifully visited her invalid husband, despite the unpleasantness of his behaviour. In the eyes of the world she has been the gracious wife of a great man and only Beata knows how deeply she despises herself for allowing her husband to have treated her in such a way. Now, as she plays the part of the grieving widow and arranges his memorial service, she dare not think of her love for Oliver Rathbone; the shame of her husband's treatment of her and her submission seems to be an insuperable barrier between them, even if Rathbone feels any affection for her. Two pleasures light Beata's loneliness: one is helping at the hospital for poor women that Hester Monk helped found and works at. The other pleasure is meeting Aaron and Miriam Clive for the first time in many years. Miriam and Beata had been friends when Aaron, Miriam and Beata had been in California at the time of the Gold Rush. Aaron Clive consolidated the fortune he made in California and is an extremely wealthy and powerful man with many trading interests.

Monk continues to investigate the death of the escaped prisoner. He discovers the man was a master forger and suspects that a major crime is planned, quite possibly to rob Aaron Clive. Before he can complete his enquiries, another prisoner escapes and Monk's attempt to apprehend him goes tragically wrong. As the plot against Monk is revealed, he is in danger of disgrace and death and it is uncertain whether the efforts of his friends and family will succeed in exonerating him or whether enemies from his past will finally destroy him.

Revenge in a Cold River is the 23rd novel featuring William Monk and the series goes from strength to strength. Although the community of family, friends and adversaries is well established, Revenge in a Cold River works well as a stand-alone novel. Anne Perry is unequalled at showing the depravity beneath the respectable Victorian façade and the terrible suffering and destruction it causes. Monk, Rathbone, Hester and Beata,l the central protagonists, are all likeable although fallible characters and the twists of the plot and the interaction between the characters are skilfully interwoven. It is an extremely good read and I recommend it.
Reviewer: Carol Westron
Anne Perry was born in Blackheath, London England in October 1938.  Anne had various jobs but there was never anything she seriously wished to do except write. Her publishing career began with The Cater Street Hangman. Published in 1979, this was the first book in the series to feature the Victorian policeman Thomas Pitt and his well-born wife Charlotte. It was filmed and broadcast on ITV featuring a young Keely Hawes. Midnight At Marble Arch is the latest in the series, released September 2012. In 1990, Anne started a second series of detective novels with The Face of a Stranger. These are set about 35 years before and feature the private detective William Monk and volatile nurse Hester Latterly. The most recent of these (18th in the series) is Blind Justice (April 2013). Anne won an Edgar award in 2000 with her short story "Heroes". The main character in the story features in an ambitious five-book series set during the First World War. The last of these was recently published, in Autumn 2007. Anne’s most recent stand-alone is The Sheen on the Silk, set in the exotic and dangerous world of the Byzantine Empire, and is a critical success.

Carol Westron is a successful short story writer and a Creative Writing teacher.  She is the moderator for the cosy/historical crime panel, The Deadly Dames.  Her crime novels are set both in contemporary and Victorian times.  The Terminal Velocity of Cats is the first in her Scene of Crimes novels, was published July 2013. Her second book About the Children was published in May 2014.

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