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Follow the Author
Slaves of Obsession: A William Monk Novel (William Monk Novels) Mass Market Paperback – October 2, 2001
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–San Francisco Examiner
“LUXURIANT . . . IT’S E. M. FORSTER SPLICED WITH THOMAS HARRIS. . . . PERRY IS A MASTER.”
–The Baltimore Sun
“SCENES ARE BRILLIANTLY ETCHED . . . [Perry is] the most adroit sleight-of-hand practitioner since Agatha Christie.”
–Chicago Sun Times
From the Inside Flap
- Publisher : Fawcett (October 2, 2001)
- Language : English
- Mass Market Paperback : 368 pages
- ISBN-10 : 0449005925
- ISBN-13 : 978-0449005927
- Item Weight : 6.4 ounces
- Dimensions : 4.19 x 1 x 6.89 inches
- Customer Reviews:
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This story is set in 1861, just as the Battle of Bull Run, the first great battle of the American Civil War, is about to be fought. (ALERT: the next sentence has a spoiler to new readers of the series and those who have not read the previous book. Skip to the next paragraph.) Monk is newly married to Hester Latterly, and both she and to a lesser extent Sir Oliver Rathbone play important roles in the story as it develops.
This is an intensely emotional story, with many disappointments and moments of frequent despair for all of the participants. While the novel has sufficient background information inserted into the storyline to be read on a standalone basis, I believe that a reader who begins the series by reading this will not appreciate the full impact of the interactions among the continuing characters in the series and many of the nuances of their relationships will be lost. The shared memories between the characters and readers will be missing, just as are in fact many of Monk's early experiences completely outside his ability to recall them. Therefore, I strongly recommend that the series be read in order. Many facts regarding both Monk's backstory and his evolving relationship with Hester Latterly, Sir Oliver Rathbone and Lady Callandra Daviot have been gradually developed in the previous installments.
The tone and emphasis of the storytelling in this book is somewhat different from several of the earlier stories. It is much less simply a combination of a mystery and courtroom drama, and has much more exploration of the psychological state of the main characters and the impact of the events upon their emotions. However, it has the same interesting detail regarding English life and mores of the period.
The story begins with Monk and Hester in attendance at a dinner party hosted by Daniel Alberton, an arms dealer who is involved in a deal to supply guns to be used by the South during the American Civil War, a business arrangement which his daughter Merrit views as supporting the morally repugnant institution of slavery. Also in attendance, are Daniel's wife Judith, Robert Casbolt, her cousin and Daniel's lifelong friend and business partner, and Lyman Breeland, who is representing the Union Army and attempting to convince Alberton to sell the guns to him instead. Merrit vocally supports Breland, and makes no attempt to hide her idealistic attraction to him. Alberton believes that it would be a stain on his honor to renege on his pledge to sell the guns to Philo Trace, whose deposit he has accepted, on behalf of the South. The conversation is interesting but tense at times, and that tension is heightened considerably when Trace unexpectedly arrives - in fact the hostility hints a barely suppressed violence.
After the dinner Alberton approaches Monk concerning the reason for their dinner invitation. He is being threatened by a blackmailer who wants to use an innocent incident in his past in order to get him to agree to sell guns to pirates, and he wants Monk to learn the identity of the blackmailer, since for personal reasons under no circumstances will he agree to such a request.
Soon the guns disappear, several murders occur, and Breeland and Merrit vanish. Monk cooperates with Inspector Lanyon who is investigating the crimes and they eventually conclude that Breeland apparently committed the murders, stole the guns, and then he and Merrit then transported them to America.
Judith Alberton hires Monk to go to America and find Merrit and hopefully return to England with her and Breeland so that the truth may be revealed. Philo Trace offers to accompany him since Monk is unfamiliar with America, and Hester will also come to provide whatever assistance that she can and act as chaperone for merit on their return voyage.
They manage to locate Merrit and Breeland just as the Battle of Bull Run is about to begin, and some of the most riveting scenes in the entire series involve their efforts to aid the dead and dying during the horrific slaughter which took place as the Union Army was eventually routed. Hester's nursing experience in the Crimea proves invaluable, but of course she is forced to relive those horrors as the carnage reveals the emotional toll the magnitude that he had been unable to comprehend until actually experiencing it himself. His admiration and love for Hester and awe of her fortitude and skills in the midst of such horrific conditions greatly strengthen the bond between them. At the same time, a strong bond forms between Hester and Merrit, who is forced to endure conditions unimaginable to most sixteen year old girls.
Merrit's and Breeland's version of the events which led to their transport of the guns to America is completely at odds with the assumptions of the London police and Monk, and after they return to England Judith Alberton hires Sir Oliver to defend them at trial after they are arrested and Monk to investigate and hopefully find evidence to obtain a verdict of not guilty on behalf of Merrit, recognizing that her fate
is inextricably linked to that of Breeland.
I thoroughly enjoyed the story, and many aspects of it were the most enjoyable of any stories in the series to this point. However, while I rounded up my rating to five stars, I deducted half a star because the ending seemed rushed and truncated and detracted from my enjoyment for two related reasons. First, the conclusion of the trial was very abrupt and anti-climatic, with Rathbone's skills much less in evidence than in the previous books. Second, the final wrap up, including the discovery of the murderer, while very dramatic and interesting, seemed both contrived and with many elements foreshadowed and less surprising than readers have come to expect of the series.
Tucker Andersen 1/28/2012
Whatever her formula it works every time