Book review: Revenge in a Cold River by Anne Perry

Born storyteller Anne Perry takes us deep into the heart of 19th century darkness in her new William Monk crime mystery.

Monday, 9th May 2016, 10:00 am
Revenge in a Cold River byAnne Perry
Revenge in a Cold River byAnne Perry

In a career spanning over 35 years, Perry has become the popular and much-acclaimed queen of the Victorian mystery, delivering two best-selling series, featuring William Monk and Thomas Pitt, which offer so much more than routine crime fiction.

Her hard-hitting, thought-provoking and atmospheric thrillers harness the murky underbelly of Dickensian London with compelling plotlines that ask soul-searching questions about the moral and ethical values of society both yesterday and today.

Perry’s acute social conscience and knowledge of Victorian society impel her to look behind the mores and manners of the rich and powerful, and to explore the darkness that lurks in the corners of their privileged world.

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In Revenge in a Cold River we find Commander William Monk of the Thames River Police facing an adversary from the past who threatens not just his career but everything he holds dear.

It’s 1869 in London and the body of a middle-aged man is found tangled in a mass of rope and wooden wreckage near the dockside of the murky Thames. Monk is called in when initial investigations reveal the victim had been shot in the back.

Monk soon discovers that the man was a master forger called Blount who escaped from prison only hours earlier while being questioned by customs officers. Monk’s interest is immediately piqued as Blount was a forger of bank notes, customs forms and bills of lading, all necessary aids in the nefarious business of smuggling.

But as Monk’s investigations take him ever deeper into the dangerous world of smuggling and forgery, he is forced to confront his own forgotten past. A carriage accident 13 years ago wiped out his memory meaning that his entire life up to that point has vanished.

Only a handful of the people closest to him know but this new case has left him vulnerable. It seems an old and unknown enemy, with links to the Gold Rush in San Francisco in 1849, is back for revenge and has him in his sights.

With his life, reputation and career now in imminent danger and with only his conscience and instinct to guide him, can Monk navigate his way to the truth before it is too late?

As always, Perry brings a wealth of historical detail and accuracy to another brilliant tale of good and bad, secrets and lies, cruelty and revenge as she takes us on a rollercoaster journey through a series of uncomfortable moral mazes and ethical dilemmas.

Perfectly plotted, alive with historical detail and packed with nail-biting drama, this is Victorian crime fiction at its very best.

(Headline, hardback, £19.99)