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A Breach of Promise: A William Monk Novel Paperback – October 4, 2011

4.3 out of 5 stars 176 customer reviews
Book 9 of 21 in the William Monk Series

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

The promises that are breached, broken, and never born in Anne Perry's rich and resonant new William Monk mystery all have to do with the roles and positions of women in Victorian society. At the center of the book is a rousing courtroom drama, as young Zillah Lambert--daughter of a wealthy, well-meaning northern businessman and his socially ambitious wife--sues an immensely gifted architect, Killian Melville. Melville, Zillah argues, failed to live up to his promise of marriage and thereby ruined her chances of making any sort of acceptable match. Private detective Monk is brought into the case by lawyer Oliver Rathbone when his client (Melville), facing financial and social ruin, still refuses to offer any reason for his dastardly conduct.

Monk's attentions are occupied elsewhere, too. Hester Latterly, the courageous nurse who worked with Florence Nightingale in the Crimean War, and whose favors Monk and Rathbone both desire, is looking after a British officer, Gabriel Sheldon, who was badly wounded and disfigured in India. Gabriel's wife, Perdita, is having trouble adjusting to her husband's broken body and spirit. "It was not Perdita's fault that she was confused and frightened," Monk muses. "She had been protected all her short life. She had not chosen to be, it was her assigned role." Monk has also promised a housemaid in the Sheldons' service that he will look for her two little nieces--deaf and deformed from birth--who were abandoned by their mother almost 20 years before. As the cases tangle and combine (perhaps a tad too coincidentally for some tastes, but, then again, real life is full of coincidences), Perry manages to show us the many ways in which women were made to pay for their place in a male-dominated society. She also delivers a touching and surprisingly suspenseful story. Other Monk books in paperback: The Silent Cry, Cain His Brother, Defend and Betray, Weighed in the Balance. --Dick Adler --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Publishers Weekly

In this latest William Monk tale (after The Silent Cry, 1997), Perry offers her strongest indictment yet of Victorian England and a society "where beauty and reputation were the yardsticks of worth." Barrister Sir Oliver Rathbone defends Killian Melville, a talented young architect, in a breach of promise suit brought by Melville's benefactor, Barton Lambert, in support of Lambert's daughter Zillah. Melville insists that Mrs. Lambert, desperate that her daughter marry, misconstrued his friendship with the young woman. Meanwhile, Hester Latterly is hired to nurse Gabriel Athol, who was tragically injured in India and whose wife, Perdita, finds her desire to understand his suffering thwarted by a brother-in-law who insists that women be shielded from the realities of war and violence. Hester befriends Perdita's maid, Martha, who is desperate to find her two deaf, disfigured nieces who vanished years ago when her brother died and his wife disappeared. Rathbone hires Monk to investigate Melville and the Lamberts; Hester implores Monk to help Martha. The first case ends tragically before the startling truth behind Melville's refusal to marry is revealed; the second project ends on a happier note. Perry does a masterful job depicting Victorian hypocrisy regarding women. But she draws her stories together with an incredible connection whose dissonance spoils an otherwise exceptional novel. Mystery Guild main selection.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
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Product Details

  • Series: William Monk (Book 9)
  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Ballantine Books (October 4, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0345523741
  • ISBN-13: 978-0345523747
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.8 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (176 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #787,987 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By L. E. Livingston on September 2, 2007
Format: Paperback
NOTE: This is not a new book. It was published in the U.S. as "Breach of Promise." Dedicated Anne Perry fans will already have read it. Otherwise it's fine.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
Most of Anne Perry's works dwell on the darker aspects of human nature, notably various sexual perversions hidden under the veneer of upper-class and middle-class Victorian society. Some of her recent works especially in the Inspector Monk series have also dwelt upon the status of Victorian women of good families, notably the tremendous barriers imposed to them professionally in medicine. More recently, her books have touched more explicitly upon political issues of the day.
This is a slightly unusual Inspector Monk book, in that there is no sexual perversion hidden as the motive for a murder. I shouldn't give away too much of the plot for those who have not read this book. The story is about the fragility of reputation, the impossibly limited choices available to young women in that society, and the ways in which friendships can be misconstrued.
One of the most effective scenes for me was where Sir Oliver Rathbone (the defense lawyer) is neatly boxed in by a match-making mother, and the way in which he understands and reads the minds of the women around him. This is one of the reasons I have kept this particular book, above all the others.
The story-line is at least initially not as dark as the typical Anne Perry (warning: her works are not for the squeamish), with the first half of the book being about a trial for breach of promise brought against one of the most brilliant young architects who refuses to marry a young woman. Why he refuses to marry her is not made clear until the middle of the story, and it certainly comes as a shock to all concerned. The second half of the book is much darker, in that the murder is driven by the personal greeds of one of the principal characters in the trial.
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Format: Hardcover
_A Breach of Promise_ is like a breath of fresh air in the William Monk series by Anne Perry. I have read all of her Victorian mysteries and had been rather disapponted by _The Silent Cry_, the immediately preceding book, thinking that perhaps Miss Perry had mined out her mid-Victorian setting and that we would not have any more excellent books such as the first book in the series, _The Face of a Stranger_. I was totally wrong. This book is fantastic. The premise of a breach of promise suit didn't seem to be all that interesting before I opened the book, but Perry captures the emotions and the fears and the lives of the characters wonderfully, including some secondary characters, a Lt. Gabriel Sheldon and his wife, Perdita, who have their own problems which play against the main plot in a masterful manner. I recommend this book to any of Perry's fans and say that you won't be disappointed.
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Format: Hardcover
Anne Perry has done it again! "A Breach of Promise" is the best yet in the William Monk/Hester Latterly/Oliver Rathbone series, and Perry succeeds brilliantly in portraying the fog-bound hypocrisy of Victorian England. The atmosphere of cold, foggy and drizzly Victorian London can be almost be felt and the attitudes and behaviour of the English aristocracy of the time are harshly, yet compassionately, portrayed. And if that is a contradiction in terms, read the book to find out why.
The plot itself is well thought-out although the denouement fell curiously flat, almost as though Perry ran out of stamina. And the relationship between William Monk and Hester Latterly is growing by leaps and bounds - I look forward to see how Perry will develop this theme in her subsequent books. I feel that Monk and Latterly are a more hard-edged couple than Perry's other creation of Thomas and Charlotte Pitt - although both William Monk and Thomas Pitt are examples of people from outside the charmed social circles who carry considerable loads of cynicism and angst.
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Format: Hardcover
I was very disappointed with the latest Perry book. She spends a great deal of time developing characters and plot, and for the first half of the book you have to wonder where it is she is trying to take the reader. Finally the plot starts to thicken and she takes you on a roller coaster ride through England. Then, just as fast as she gets your attention, she ends the book without a conclusion. I felt cheated and left hanging! It was almost as if she got tired of writing, or the last two chapters got lost in the mail??? She spends over 300 pages setting up a great murder/mystery and then poorly sums it up in less then 15 pages, leaving the reader wondering what happens to the murder and the other characters who are connected. I can't say I will be reading many more Perry books in the future if this is how they will end!
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
SPOILER ALERT: Do not read any further in this review if you are reading the series in chronological order and you haven't finished this particular book.

This one started out quite slowly and I certainly didn't expect it to rate 5 stars. The continual talk about architecture was a snooze fest, especially since Ms. Perry kept repeating the same two or three descriptive phrases over and over. And the idea she tosses out that just because someone is brilliant creatively then they can't be a bad person is ludicrous. Once the trial starts, however, and Monk gets involved, the pace of the story picks up. The shocking revelation during the trial was exactly that. Shocking. I certainly never suspected the truth about Melville's identity. Well done, Ms. Perry.

On the personal side, Monk's passionate defense of Hester to Perdita and his proclamation of his feelings brought tears to my eyes. Finally! Thank heavens, he didn't retract simply because of embarrassment as he was tempted.

About the case of Melville's poisoning. As soon as Monk talked to the courthouse guard, I knew how Keelin had been killed and by whom. Right away he should have thought to ask Hester how the poison might be administered without eating or drinking. She certainly has the proper knowledge. Later on, he is actually the one who figured it out.

Did not see the ending coming. I expected Monk to express his love for Hester, not to propose. YES! Of course, leave it to Monk to propose in a graveyard. I can't wait to read of the new depths to their relationship and their feelings for each other.

In my excitement over the engagement, I nearly forgot to add the list of interesting names and there were plenty in this book! Zillah. Perdita. Phemie. Athol (sounds like a gasoline). Wystan. Keelin (which is actually quite pretty, but I do like Irish names).
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