The Sins of the Wolf, by Anne Perry

>> Friday, June 08, 2007

TITLE: The Sins of the Wolf
AUTHOR: Anne Perry

PAGES: 436

SETTING: Victorian Scotland and London (late 1850s)
TYPE: Mystery
SERIES: Book # 5 in the William Monk series

REASON FOR READING: I'm slowly working my way through the whole series -in order, this time around.

Nurse Hester Latterly finds herself well-suited for the position: accompany Mrs. Mary Farraline, an elderly Scottish lady with delicate health, on a short train trip to London. Yet Hester's simple job takes a grave turn when the woman dies during the night. And when a postmortem examination of the body reveals a lethal dose of medicine, Hester is charged with murder--punishable by execution.

The notorious case presents detective William Monk with a daunting task: find a calculating killer amongst the prominent and coolly unassailable Farraline clan. Since Hester must be tried in Edinburgh, where prejudice against her runs high, there is little that the highly skilled barrister Oliver Rathbone can do to help. He can only try to direct her Scottish lawyer from the frustrating sidelines, and pray that Hester will not be sent to the gallows....
THE PLOT: TSOTW has former Crimean nurse Hester Latterly taking a short job that seems easy enough. She's to travel to Scotland and then accompany Mrs. Mary Farraline back to London, to visit her daughter. There's nothing really wrong with Mrs. Farraline, other than advanced years, so Hester's job is supposed to be nothing more strenuous than administering the old lady's medicine and being good company on the trip.

But when Hester awakens to find Mrs. Farraline dead, and an autopsy reveals that she was poisoned, things suddenly become complicated. And even worse when Hester discovers a piece of valuable jewelry in her luggage, a brooch she knows belonged to her late patient. Despite her immediate efforts to return the brooch, Hester finds herself accused of murder and sent to Edinburgh for her trial.

MY THOUGHTS: This was a truly excellent book, probably the best in the series so far -until we got to the ending.

What made most of it so brilliant was that the stakes were the highest they've ever been so far, and this made for some very beautifully done high emotion. It's Hester's life that's hanging in the balance, not an anonymous someone's, and this hits everyone hard. It hits her, of course, but also Monk and Rathbone and Callandra. And all their reactions and feelings were perfect, just right. I loved the subtlety of them, the way they weren't just "sad" or "worried" about her, but a whole host of other things, all mixed up, from frustration to anger to fear and everything in between.

Add an interesting puzzle with fascinating characters, some spectacular court scenes and some new territory to cover with regards to setting (Perry's Victorian Edinburgh has a whole different feel to it than her Victorian London), and I was one happy reader.

But then the ending was a real let-down. Suddenly there's nothing more at stake than getting to the bottom of things, Monk takes a long, pointless trip to Northern Scotland (some nice descriptions, but this turns out not to have any relevance to the solution of the case, which feels wrong, this late in the story), and we get these artificially exciting chases and confrontations. And I call them "artificial", because it this is just not what this series is about, not where the excitement should come from.

Plus, finally, finally, we have some definite development in Hester and Monk's relationship, but it feels unsatisfying because it smacks of cheap melodrama ("We probably won't live to see the morning", etc.). Eh, well, let's see how this develops in the next one.

MY GRADE: Most of it was in the A range, but the ending lowers it somewhat. Still, what was good was excellent enough that I'd still rate the book a B+.


Ana Teixeira 13 May 2014 at 22:42  

I have just started this one. Glad you enjoyed most of it. Does Monk ever remenbers what happened to him?

Rosario 17 May 2014 at 08:12  

Do you really want to know, Ana? ;-) Let's just say there is a lot of development in this area throughout the series.

Ana Teixeira 20 May 2014 at 16:40  

That's enough info then. I was just worried we might never tackle that.

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