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Culture and Arts

Culture Watch

by Laura Haywood

In this issue:


Two mysteries: In Ann Perry's Death of a Stranger, the 14th novel in the William Monk series, Monk is finally forced to confront his lost past.

A fresh look at John Grisham's The Brethren paired with the events of 9/11 give that book added interest and impact.


Death of a Stranger
by Anne Perry
Ballantine Books, 337 pages

Through 13 William Monk mysteries by Anne Perry, private investigator (and former police officer) Monk has worked with a major handicap: there is a huge chunk of his memory missing. Through the 13 previous Monk novels set in Victorian England, he has discovered bits and pieces of his past, found out things about himself he wishes he hadn't, fallen in love and married. But always there has been something he wants to find out and fears learning. In Death of a Stranger, the 14th novel in the series, he is finally forced to confront his lost past.

A mysterious woman, Katrina Harcus, is Monk's client in Death of a Stranger. She tells Monk she is about to become engaged to Michael Delgarno, an executive in a railroad company owned by Nolan Baltimore. She asks Monk to find out if there is fraud involved in the building of a new railroad line and whether, if there is, Delgarno is involved. She gives Monk a sheaf of papers she has stolen from Delgarno's rooms. As Monk goes through them, he finds one that is from the period he can't remember and that is signed "William Monk."

Complicating matters further is the murder of Nolan Baltimore in an area rife with prostitution — in fact, his body has been found in a house of ill repute. Monk's wife, Hester, has been trained as a nurse by Florence Nightingale. She and some assistants run a clinic in the area where Baltimore's body has been found. Because of Baltimore's murder, the area is now crawling with police, which has made it almost impossible for the prostitutes to earn the money they need to survive — and to pay their pimps. As a result, several of the ladies of the evening have been brutally punished by their pimps and have come to Hester for treatment. A desperation fills the area and Hester decides she must find out who is abusing her patients. In turn, this leads to her conviction that she must find out who killed Baltimore.

The two cases, of course, come together and the plot takes as many turns as a railroad line.

Perry is a brilliant writer who makes her readers completely at home in Victorian England. Her characters are richly drawn and her plots are intricate and clever. Each of her books stands alone — it isn't necessary to have read the earlier mysteries to follow Death of a Stranger, though if you have read them it will probably increase your pleasure in the book. But, either way, don't wait for the paperback on this one — it's too good to postpone.

A fresh look at John Grisham's The Brethren in light of 9/11's events>>

©2002 Laura Haywood for SeniorWomenWeb
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