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The Face of a Stranger: The First William Monk Novel Paperback – September 30, 2008

4.4 out of 5 stars 133 customer reviews
Book 1 of 21 in the William Monk Series

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Branching out from her popular Victorian London sleuthing team, Inspector Thomas Pitt and his wife Charlotte, Perry ( Cardington Crescent ) introduces another exemplary "Peeler" (as in Bobby Peele, the first "bobby"), detective William Monk, in this period mystery with a pronounced and satisfying psychological dimension. After an accident in his carriage, Monk wakes up with no memory; ashamed to admit it, he bluffs his way through recovery and returns to work, where he is assigned a particularly tricky investigation of a young nobleman's brutal murder. While tracking the last affairs of Joscelinsp ok? yes Grey, Monk traces his own history and dislikes what he turns up on both fronts. Uncovering unpleasant secrets within Grey's aristocratic family, he also finds his gradually revealed former self to have been ambitious, cold and perhaps cruel. Integral to Perry's rich, unpredictable plot is the Crimean War, graphically described by Hester Latterly, a forthright young woman of the middle class who nursed there with Florence Nightingale. While Monk's unwillingness to face directly the questions of his past is often a stumbling block, forbearing readers will be amply rewarded by Perry's resolutions of both mysteries. Mystery Guild dual main selection.
Copyright 1990 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From School Library Journal

YA-- Readers are immediately immersed into the Victorian world of William Monk as he awakens from a coma in a squalid London hospital. Leaving in a semi-amnesic state, he finds his flat through a receipt in his pocket. Gradually, as he begins to solve a much-publicized murder case, Monk's established abilities as an investigator are renewed. As he unravels the case, he also comes to know his own past. Perry leads readers to the solutions of the two mysteries with a fine, comfortable style and descriptions of turn-of-the-century London that are vivid and accurate.
- Diane Goheen, Topeka West High School, KS
Copyright 1991 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Series: William Monk (Book 1)
  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Ballantine Books (September 30, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 034551355X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0345513557
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.8 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (133 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #377,454 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Mass Market Paperback
I picked this book up on a lark, just browsing at the library through the stacks. I can't even say what caught my eye about it. After reading it, however, I heartily recommend the book.
The story starts with an amnesiac detective in the mid-19th century in London. As he returns to duty, he needs to rediscover himself as much as he needs to solve the case that he is assigned. I particularly enjoyed the idea that Monk, the protagonist, didn't like his old self that much (even though I don't think amnesia would change a person's basic traits). In any case, the Crimean War background, along with fine writing, make this historical mystery stand out. I plan to read other Monk novels after giving myself a short break.
I think this book will mainly appeal to two types of readers: first, hardcore mystery readers will enjoy the twists and turns of a traditional "let's gather in the library so I can tell you who did it" mystery; second, readers of historical fiction will enjoy, as I did, the gas-lit streets of London, the withdrawing rooms, and the spiritual depression of the British following the catastrophe that was the Crimean War.
All in all, this is a quick read that combines an interesting plot with high quality writing.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
The mistake Perry made in her Pitt series was developing her characters too quickly--she has had to compensate by introducing a rather large cast of supporting characters. This, the first in her William Monk series, avoids that gaffe by inducing amnesia in her hero--he hardly knows who he is or what he's about. It may be preposterous, but it's also an enjoyable read and an outstanding mystery.
The story has Monk attempting to learn the set of circumstances that resulted in his hospitalization and amnesia--he must face the horrifying possibility that he was involved in a vicious crime, and he knows too little of himself to trust that he was incapable of such a deed. He learns through the reactions of others that he was (is?) not a nice man, and the more he learns, the more he doubts himself. The fact that his past does not come flooding back to him after another bump on the head speaks well to Perry's prowess as a writer.
Hester Latterly and Oliver Rathbone are the edgy counterparts to Monk's dark personality. Though never friends, these three circle each other with wary respect. Monk himself is an appealing character, the mystery is top-notch, and the Victorian setting is quintessential Perry--she has made it uniquely her own.
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By A Customer on January 28, 1997
Format: Mass Market Paperback
William Monk awakens in a Victorian-era London hospital with amnesia. Over the course of this book, he returns to his job as a policeman, hoping that work will help him regain his memory as well as his detecting skills. What's fascinating is that not all he discovers about his life before the accident is flattering--including the fact that he may very well have been responsible for a serious crime. Over the course of Perry's new series--this book being the debut--Monk's past will at various times haunt, delight, and maybe even endanger him, and the people who come to be his allies don't always like him, but their loyalties to one another shine through. As with the Pitt mysteries, Anne Perry's trademark detail and eye-opening descriptions of what Victorian life was really like make this an entertaining way to read away a winter afternoon
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
Inspector Monk is one of the most riveting figures you will ever come across in Victorian mysteries. Initially, I was not sure that I would like this Anne Perry series because of the initial premise (Monk has had an accident and cannot remember his own identity or anything about his past life) nor was I sure I would like a series without Charlotte Ellison Pitt! I was drawn in immediately by Perry's amazing ability to explore the secrets that can reside within the most seemingly secure and blameless households.
The Inspector Monk novels (of which this is the first) are darker and more gritty than the Pitt novels. There are few veils between the cruel and dangerous world of mid-century London and the reader, which gives the novels a faster pace and often more complicated plots. While some readers have taken issue with the amnesiatic Inspector Monk, I feel that his lack of awareness about his own past is a metaphor for the blindness his social betters are willing inflict upon themselves in order to keep up appearances. Monk's desire to KNOW, however, provides an interesting point of comparison with the people he must investigate who seem not to want to know anything at all that will make their lives unpleasant.
I have spoken more about character than plot in this review, and that is largely because Anne Perry's mysteries seem to me to pivot on their protagonists's characters. The plot of this novel, and the mysteries at the center of it, do not disappoint any more than the characters. As Monk tries to untangle his own personal mysteries, he is expected to get to the bottom of a mystery that involves death, financial ruin, and the closely-guarded secrets of some very proper families.
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Format: Hardcover
Yes, it's that vital. I picture the Timothy Dalton circa BBC's "Jane Eyre" to be very similar to the wolfish, well-dressed, passionate William Monk. Once you get to know him (despite his memory loss) you'll care very much about his character in subsequent novels. He's definitely a unique character in mystery fiction. This novel features a decent mystery, but serves mostly to introduce us to a completely different set of characters, and indeed a different time period than the Thomas and Charlotte Pitt novels. You'll like Hester Latterly, who reminds me of Emma Thompson. She nursed the wounded in the horrific battlegrounds of the Crimea, and is full of righteous indignation about hospital reform. Oliver Rathbone is a surprisingly moral barrister who takes a shine to Hester immediately, unlike Monk who keeps trying to convince himself that she is NOT his type. (Methinks he doth protest too much...) Dive on in and get ready for a steady series of interesting mysteries and even better courtroom scenes. Enjoy!
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