My very first impression of the prolific Anne Perry, who has over 50 mysteries under her belt, including the William Monk series and Charlotte & Thomas Pitt series, is that she writes like a man. Her contemplative but robust writing reminds me of Sir Arthur Conan, who evokes Victorian England with such relish for detail and mood. The first book and my current read, The Face of A Stranger, is a hybrid of murder mystery and identity crisis. This introduces us to William Monk, a detective with the police in London of 1856. After recovering from a serious accident in a carriage, he finds he has lost his memory. He is assigned to investigate the brutal murder of an aristocratic Crimean war hero and in the process finds out more of his own past—and is terrified of what he sees. Did he commit this crime himself? During his investigations he meets Hester Latterly, a forthright young woman of middle class, who nursed with Florence Nightingale in Crimea.
Monk’s amnesia is very selective: he has only lost memories about this adult life—especially the previous cases he investigated. Some of his childhood memories come back to him early on. He seems to be somewhat different person without his memories; he criticizes his own life and even his goals. The period details seep in as he visits the victim’s family, who are very condescending to him, to the extent that they tell Monk what and who he should investigate because the murderer has to be some insane lower class man.
So far so good. I really enjoy the mix of period details, personal crisis, and the murder mystery at hand. I’m reading a volume of her the first three William Monk mysteries.