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A Sunless Sea: A William Monk Novel (William Monk Novels) Hardcover – Deckle Edge, August 28, 2012

4.4 out of 5 stars 286 customer reviews
Book 18 of 21 in the William Monk Series

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

*Starred Review* In Victorian London, anyone could go to the local druggist’s and pick up a pennyworth of opium from the open shelves. The drug was promoted as a panacea for many small ills, and its devastating effects were hushed up through the efforts of many of Britain’s wealthiest families, whose fortunes had been built on the opium trade. Opium is the focus of Perry’s latest William Monk mystery, and the horror surrounding this social evil deepens as the well-crafted novel progresses. Monk, long a member of the Metropolitan Police, is now in command of the Thames River Police, which expands Perry’s atmospheric reach to include the brooding, jumbled warren of river traffic. The gutted body of a woman is discovered on Limehouse Pier. Monk’s street canvassing of local prostitutes reveals a connection between the dead woman and a doctor who committed suicide some weeks before. Apparently, the doctor was devastated when his extensive report on the evils of opium use was rejected by the government. Monk’s reach into this mystery is extended by his wife, Hester, a nurse who runs a women’s clinic and who has contacts among both doctors and street people. The investigation concludes in a hold-your-breath trial, starring Monk’s old friend, Sir Oliver Rathbone. The eighteenth Monk novel is a brilliant Victorian police procedural in which well-realized characters and settings are fascinating in themselves. And, as in all her Monk novels, Perry exhumes and exhibits yet another of the Victorian era’s social evils. --Connie Fletcher


A Sunless Sea
“Anne Perry’s Victorian mysteries are marvels.”—The New York Times Book Review

Acceptable Loss
“Masterful storytelling and moving dialogue . . . [the] best in the series to date.”—The Star-Ledger
Execution Dock
“[An] engrossing page-turner . . . There’s no one better at using words to paint a scene and then fill it with sounds and smells than Anne Perry.”—The Boston Globe
Dark Assassin
“Brilliant . . . a page-turning thriller . . . blending compelling plotting with superbly realized human emotion and exquisite period detail.”—Jeffery Deaver, author of Edge
The Shifting Tide
“The mysterious and dangerous waterfront world of London’s ‘longest street,’ the Thames, comes to life.”—South Florida Sun-Sentinel
Death of a Stranger
“[A] tantalizing puzzle . . . At last, in Death of a Stranger, the secrets of Monk’s past are dramatically revealed.”—The New York Times Book Review

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Product Details

  • Series: William Monk Novels
  • Hardcover: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Ballantine Books; Book Club (BCE/BOMC) edition (August 28, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 034551064X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0345510648
  • Product Dimensions: 6.7 x 1.3 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (286 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #698,807 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By E. Bukowsky HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on August 28, 2012
Format: Hardcover
In November 1864, Commander of the Thames River Police, William Monk, and his compassionate and capable wife, Hester, team up with attorney Oliver Rathbone to free a woman accused of murder. Anne Perry's "A Sunless Sea" explores themes that should be familiar to fans of this long-running series: the divide between rich and poor, rampant corruption in high places, and the many flaws in London's criminal justice system. Nothing is as it seems in a Perry novel and, sure enough, Monk and company uncover secrets, lies, and even a nefarious conspiracy.

Monk, Hester, and Oliver investigate the apparent suicide of Dr. Joel Lambourn and the bludgeoning and mutilation of Zenia Gadney, whom Dr. Lambourn had supported financially for years. Lambourn, who had been looking into the abuse of opium in England, had submitted a controversial report to the government calling for the regulation and proper labeling of this dangerous drug.

As usual, Perry creates a colorful cast of characters. She stages lively courtroom confrontations, in which a worried Rathbone spars with his aggressive opponent. The brilliant Rathbone has had many legal triumphs in the past, but his confidence has been at a low ebb lately; he fears that it will take a miracle to vindicate his client.

Meanwhile, Hester and Monk interview witnesses and gather evidence that might bolster Rathbone's case. In one of the novel's surprises, Monk enlists the aid of his former nemesis, Superintendent Runcorn, who proves to be a valuable ally. It is always pleasurable to spend time with Monk, Hester, and Rathbone, and "A Sunless Sea" is entertaining and suspenseful enough to hold our interest. However, it is a bit too repetitious and predictable to rank among Perry's best.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I truly appreciate the title of this book for several reasons. First, it comes from Kublai Khan, a poem written by Samuel Taylor Coleridge, who was a notorious opium eater and according to legend wrote this upon awakening from an opium dream. "In Xanadu did Kublai Khan A stately pleasure dome decree, Where Alph, the sacred river, ran Through caverns measureless to man, Down to a sunless sea." Second, one could visualize opium addicts as drowning in a sea without the sun of hope to guide them to shore.

A new Monk novel is always a joy to receive. I find the trio of Monk, his wife Hester, and the eminent barrister Oliver Rathbone to be one of the best in all of detective fiction. The marriage of Monk and Hester is a partnership in every sense of the word; the deep love they feel for each other is obvious, and, although it would seem they are fated not to have a child of their own, their foster son Scruff adds a dimension to it that makes me happy for them. I did miss Sir Oliver's father, who is a voice of wisdom & reality for his son and is a very likeable character. Oliver is suffering the death of his marriage; I felt sad for him even while realizing that Margaret was not really the wife he needed.

Inspector Runcorn, who was for a while Monk's friend & then his nemesis, is back; he has changed greatly, largely due to finding happiness with the lovely Melisande. He works with Monk and Rathbone while Hester goes off on her own investigation; this was reminiscent of many of the Pitt & Charlotte books.

The heroine is a widow who is accused of a murder followed by a ghastly mutilation of the body. Her husband had died, supposedly a suicide, two months prior to this. She is a brave and gallant woman who is willing to sacrifice herself for the love of her husband.
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Format: Hardcover
A Sunless Sea once again involved our 3 main characters in another great murder mystery, along with the personal trials and tribulations of Oliver Rathbone involving his disintegrating marriage to Margaret Ballinger Rathbone.

Like some of the other reviewers, it was not too difficult to figure out who the 'bad guys' were going to be, but I still enjoyed the process of getting there. And Hester did play a smaller role than what she normally does, but since no part of the murder mystery involved the Portpool Lane clinic, we only saw her do some minor investigating to help Monk, along with some brainstorming with Monk and Rathbone. And of course I liked seeing the domestic scenes inside the Monk household. Scuff appeared a few times and I liked the family dynamics between Monk, Hester and Scuff.

I also enjoyed the portions of the book where Monk and Runcorn worked together again to help solve the case. And I was very happy when I found out about the changes in Runcorn's personal life.

I did not know anything about the Opium Wars, so having that history repeated several times amongst the characters did not bother me at all.

What made this book so interesting was the focus given to Rathbone, personally and professionally. His realization that his and Margaret's marriage was completely broken, and how that affected his handling of his client's defense was fascinating. Oliver has become my favorite character over the last few books, his struggles with doing his duty to the law that he believes in, and his realization that Margaret was not who he thought she was, has made his character so much more compelling.

Last but not least, the very difficult decision Rathbone made to turn the tide during the trial is a big one.
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