Monday, October 03, 2011
Cain His Brother, by Anne Perry
(hb; 1995: sixth book in the William Monk series)
From the inside flap:
"Victoria's London was the queen of the universe, a dazzling metropolis from whose magnificent mansions and discreetly luxurious clubs flowed the strategies that built the greatest empire ever known. Meanwhile, the city's poor suffered and died in hopeless obscurity. Inspector William Monk knows his city's best and its worst - or so he believes, until the day when charming Genevieve Stonefield comes to plead with him to find her missing husband.
"In his family life, Angus Stonefield had been gentle and loving; in business a man of probity; and in his relationship with his twin brother, Caleb, a virtual saint. Now he is missing, and it appears more than possible that Caleb - a creature long since abandoned to depravity - has murdered him.
"And so Monk puts himself into the missing man's shoes, searching Stonefield's comfortable home, his prospering business, his favorite haunts, and, finally, the city's dangerous, fever-ridden slums for clues to Angus's fate and his vicious brother's whereabouts. Slowly, Monk inches toward the truth - and, also, unwittingly toward the destruction of his good name and livelihood."
Clever, mostly gripping read. The mystery portions of the novel are excellent, though I did see the end-twist coming from a ways off. (That may be due to my distrust of anybody who claims to virtuous; I believe everybody is guilty of at least one big evil.)
What flawed this book - and, thus far, this series - is Perry's insistence of keeping Monk and Latterly at each other's throats: after all they've been through - life and death situations, even a shocked kiss - the author hasn't let the characters progress to a more believable semi-acceptance of each others' foibles. I don't expect Monk and Latterly to not disagree, given their wildly divergent personalities, but the antagonism/frustration level between them feels ramped up, forced, writerly, considering that six books have passed since they've met.
I've ignored this Monk/Latterly incongruity in previous William Monk books because I hoped they would, realistically, progress in their mystery-solving relationship. Perry has, in many other books, shown that she can do realistic, interesting characters when she chooses to, so her ability to progress Monk and Latterly (as a mystery-solving, non-romantic duo) wasn't initially in doubt.
Read the Charlotte & Thomas Pitt series instead, if you're interested in realistic and interesting characters, and often excellent mysteries.
Followed by Weighed in the Balance, though I'm not sure if I'm going to read any more books in this series.