A Breach of Promise, by Anne Perry

>> Tuesday, December 11, 2007

TITLE: A Breach of Promise
AUTHOR: Anne Perry

PAGES: 373

SETTING: 1860 London
TYPE: Historical Mystery
SERIES: 9th in the William Monk series.

REASON FOR READING: I'm rereading the whole series in order.

In a sensational breach of promise suit, two wealthy social climbers are suing on behalf of their beautiful daughter, Zillah. The defendant is Zillah's alleged fiancé, brilliant young architect Killian Melville, who adamantly declares that he will not, cannot, marry her. Utterly baffled by his client's refusal, Melville's counsel, Sir Oliver Rathbone, turns to his old comrades in crime--investigator William Monk and nurse Hester Latterly. But even as they scout London for clues, the case suddenly and tragically ends. An outcome that no one--except a ruthless murderer--could have foreseen.
THE PLOT: The summary above can stand, although I'd correct the "social climbers" description of Zillah's parents. They are people from outside high society trying to fit in, but their charactertization is much more subtle than that.

MY THOUGHTS: With this one, I reach the end of my collection. The next one, The Twisted Root, will be a first-time read for me, and I think that will be a relief. It seems these books made a huge impression on me when I first read them, because after over a decade, I still remember too many details. In ABOP, the one big detail that explains it all, that one big detail Rathbone is certain Melville is withholding, it flashed in my mind during the very first scene. It couldn't have been a brilliant guess, because there just hadn't been enough clues for that, so the inescapable conclusion is that I remembered it.

Surprisingly, though, knowing this didn't make reading the book frustrating, because it made sense neither Monk nor Rathbone would guess. The book was a bit frustrating, though, but for a completely different reason. Usually, I find the way Rathbone builds his cases flawless and brilliant, but here, I wanted to shake him for bungling it. This was a breach of promise case, but he allowed the opposing side to completely misdirect the case instead of focusing on the very clear point that there hadn't been a promise made, so it couldn't have been breached. He paid absolutely no attention to his client's arguments.

While Monk and Rathbone investigate their case, Hester's nursing a young man who was one of the very few survivors of a particularly savage and brutal siege during the Indian mutiny. He survived and came back to England with horrifying injuries and even more horrifying memories, and his young wife has no idea of how to deal with that. This was all completely unrelated to the main case (both Monk and Rathbone come ask Hester for advice, but there are no secret links here), but I really liked what it added to the book: a positive note, hard as it may be to belive. It adds an optimistic air to an otherwise very tragic book.



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