At the start of Perry's latest Victorian page-turner (after The Twisted Root), London-based private detective William Monk agrees to attend a dinner party at the lush home of arms dealer Daniel Alberton only for the sake of his wife, Hester. Hester, who served as a nurse with Florence Nightingale in the Crimea, is as gregarious as her husband is reserved. At the party, the Monks meet a volatile cast of characters, including Daniel's wife, Judith, a half-Italian beauty devoted to her husband and their 16-year-old daughter, Merrit. Daniel clearly adores Judith, as does her cousin, Casbolt, her husband's dapper partner in the arms business. Merrit, however, is blinded by passion for Lyman Breeland, a tall, thirtyish American who has come to England to buy guns for the Union Army. When Breeland's handsome Confederate counterpart, Philo Trace, appears unexpectedly at the end of dinner, Daniel admits that he's selling guns to Trace rather than Breeland because Trace asked first. Later, after Daniel turns up dead and Merrit runs off to America with Breeland, Monk and Hester follow, landing with Trace in the thick of the first battle of Bull Run. Monk brings Breeland back to London to stand trial for Daniel's murder, only to have doubts before the ship docks. Rich in period detail and ripe with an understanding of the agony of unrequited love, Perry's heated tale is marred by a subplot involving blackmail and pirates that never pays off. In addition, patches of overwriting will flag the villain to astute readers. 10-city author tour. (Oct.)
Reviewed on: 10/02/2000 Release date: 10/01/2000 Genre: Fiction
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