FUNERAL IN BLUE
From the enormously popular and hard-working Perry comes her 11th Victorian mystery featuring Hester and William Monk, to the certain delight of her faithful admirers. In the studio of a London artist, two women have been murdered, one of them the wife of Dr. Kristian Beck, a physician from Vienna with whom Hester's dear friend, Lady Callandra, is secretly in love. When Beck is charged with the murder, Callandra enlists the aid of Hester and William. Neither of the Monks fits tidily into polite society. William, a former policeman now working as a private enquiry agent, has no memory of his life before a serious injury five years ago; it may partly explain his cantankerous personality. Hester, a nurse who served under Florence Nightingale in the Crimean War, is outspoken, courageous, passionate, independent and stubborn—not exactly your typical subservient Victorian gentlewoman. Indeed, a common theme for Perry is spotlighting the social ills of 19th-century England, particularly the treatment accorded to women. Here she layers a new evil into the plot: anti-Semitism, widely accepted then and a haunting precursor of ugliness to come. The author excels at re-creating the ambience of 1860s London streets, but stumbles in plot cohesion, succumbing at the last moment to out-of-left-field syndrome. Throughout, the key characters engage in a great deal of inner reflection made ponderous by wordiness and repetition. No doubt Perry's myriad fans won't care a whit. (Oct. 2)
Forecast: The sample chapter included in the mass market edition of Slaves of Obsession, featuring Thomas and Charlotte Pitt from Perry's other Victorian series, will help fuel this novel's surefire sales.