This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
Genres: Historical Romance, Romantic Suspense
Published by Ballantine Books
Released on September 9, 2014
Began with a bang and went out the same way! I was startled breathless both times too since the plot developed at a much slower pace much of the book. The book is full of all that makes for a gritty, dark tale of murder and conspiracy against the public’s outcry of fear and a lust for vengeance. It delights in the unexpected. Just when the reader thinks they have things figured out, a twist occurs and, no, reader is way out.
This author has been a go to comfort for over two decades now and it was with true pleasure that I reached for the twentieth book in this historical mystery series set in the mid-Victorian era with the primary characters being a husband and wife detective team along with a surrounding cast of equally engaging characters. Some series go flat or start to lose any form of innovation to the stories, but I have not found that to be the case here. This is a series that really should be started with the beginning and read on through as the main characters’ stories run right alongside the individual cases they solve in each book with strands from some of these cases leading into the next story whether it be Monk and Hester’s detecting or Oliver taking over the case in court.
This particular story begins with a horrific explosion and the deaths of nearly two hundred people. Monk and Orme are there along with many from the Thames River Police and begin to start sorting out the nightmare when inexplicably they are pulled off the case and it is given to the Metropolitan Police even though it happened on the water. Public outcry is strong in the face of such a marked attack on people engaged in an innocent activity. Those taken in the explosion were representative of both ordinary people, but some related to powerful, influential people. The pressure is strong for a swift action and in the process the investigation isn’t as thorough as it should have been. Monk and his men are forced to watch helplessly as things are not handled well though a suspect, possibly scapegoat, is taken into custody and brought to trial.
After the sentencing, it is Monk who stumbles on the convicted man’s unbreakable alibi and things come full circle. The investigation is re-opened and put back into the hands of Monk and his men with the pressure escalated now that their are news posts and talks of conspiracy and corruption in the government, police and courts added to it all. Does it have to do with the negotiations for the Suez Canal in Egypt? Is it an act of hate against the British Empire? Or is it something else? Monk has the job of untangling it all and giving the prosecutor something unbreakable and true.
Hester makes her own investigative plans to help her husband knowing the pressure he is under and the danger he faces as the clues lead to powerful conspirators being involved. But she is not alone as their adoptive son falls back on his beginnings to scour the banks of the river through those that scratch out a living there to help arrive at a solution. As they all work separately, Monk learns the killer isn’t afraid to kill again to protect himself and William Monk is the new threat as his investigations bring him closer and closer to the right answer. Will he find the answers and get them into Oliver and the prosecutor’s hands before the killer gets him or his loved ones first?
This particular story just like many others in the author’s repertoire has a universality to it. I say that because even though the plot is set in Victorian times, the issues are true of our times as well. The society, dress, activities and speech may be a bit antiquated, but the motives, emotions and thinking could be any time or place.
Speaking of the historical side, the author truly does have a strong, authoritative grasp on the life and times of that period. The description doesn’t take over the story line, but it is there adding just another well-written layer to enjoy.
The suspense and mystery are strong and twisting so that the reader can never quite be sure that the solution is in hand. The plot slowly (very slowly so be patient) builds adding clue upon clue as William Monk, his wife Hester, his adopted son Scuff and his men search out each witness and suspect. Oliver Rathbone wasn’t in this one from the beginning, but he does join in when the drama heads to the courtroom and even he has an investigative role to play as court corruption is suspected. He is still temporarily disbarred from representing the law or defending a client, but he is called in to consult. Those courtroom scenes were quietly intense as it became a race to see if time would run out before the prosecution provided a strong enough case for conviction and if Oliver could nose out what was going on with those that participated in the previous trial that went so wrong.
As to the characters and the human side of things, I once again enjoyed William and Hester detecting together. The cases are dark and gritty, but the human element represented by the main characters are warm and bright spots that keep the dread and shivers caused by the murder and evil away. They worked separately for the most part and shared the majority of the narration with a few times given over to Scuff or Oliver. The tension and heat between them that was present in the early stories has mellowed, but the detecting fire and love is still there. I love how the author has a gift of delving deep into her characters exposing more about them with each new story including more about this couple’s relationship with each other and those around them. They have slipped into the roles of a long married couple, but that takes nothing away from their fire and zeal for justice and for each other.
[quote]After Rathbone had gone, Monk and Hester sat up long into the night talking. No matter how heavy the problem or how tangled, there were ways in which these were Monk’s happiest times. There was a deep pleasure, a peace of the soul, in sharing even the most desperate battles with a woman he loved with whom he shared not just passion, but an abiding friendship.
Loc 65% William Monk, Blood on the Water[/quote]
Other characters have strong secondary story lines too. Oliver recently ended things with his wife and it is hard to see him coming to grip with all that went before to bring it to that, but I love the new Oliver that came out of it. And Scuff, he is growing up and flourishing under William and Hester’s loving care. He is contributing more and more to their cases and I think this was the first time he verbally acknowledged William as his dad.
There are a few things that I felt were a tad rushed or under-explained, but nothing that caused me real trouble. Part of it was probably intentional to keep me guessing to the end, but not all of it. It’s possible that some of it will carry over into new stories too. Again, it wasn’t stuff that affected the main plot or outcome when that is finally teased out.
So, in the end, I was left with an exciting, emotional, and engaging (and yes, the alliterative juices are flowing) mystery that I couldn’t put down many times. I would recommend this book/series to those who enjoy strongly authentic slow to build historical mysteries that are stronger on the mystery side and solved by a husband and wife- led detective team full of deep character development and mild romance.
My thanks to Net Galley for the opportunity to read this book in exchange for my honest review.
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