Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Corridors of the Night by Anne Perry

First Sentence: The small gas lamps along the walls of the corridor flickered as if there were a draught, but Hester knew, it being well after midnight, that all the doors were closed.

Hester Monk is filling in at London’s Royal Naval Hospital for a nurse who is sick. She discovers three small, horribly dehydrated children and learn they have been purchased from their impoverished parents and are imprisoned as donors for an experiment by the Rand brothers—Magnus, a doctor, and Hamilton, a chemist. Hester is kidnapped and taken by the brothers with the children, a wealthy patient and his daughter; Hester knowing the four of them will die if the experiment fails.

Perry starts the story by hitting all the right notes; a strong sense of place and time, compelling well-introduced characters, and a sense that something is very wrong.

Perry’s characters are alive, their personalities are real and their speech reflects their status and upbringing. She excels at showing us the unpolished reality of live from the most poor and vulnerable to those with wealth. Monk’s amnesic past is always intriguing in the questions it presents to him without any answers. Hester is her most noble and determined as a former WWI nurse. Rathbone’s frustration as a disgraced judge now reduced to serving as second chair in a trial is palpable. But it’s the supporting characters in their lives that add real spice to the story and make it completely delicious.

What is delightful is the sense of this being a Victorian-era version of “Law and Order,” beginning with the crime and carrying the story on through the trial and all the way to the resolution. However, this is even better than that in that things are not cut-and-dried. There is much more nuance and a strong layer of moral question which elevates this beyond the ordinary. Without making a point of it, the book demonstrates how far criminal justice has come through the advancement of crime-scene investigation and forensics.

The court proceedings are anything but boring, particularly with the inclusion of a wonderfully dramatic moment. Perry so clearly describes that evil does exist in people, and her definition of hell gives us pause.

Corridors of the Night” demonstrates, once again, that Perry still reigns in creating mysteries that enthrall, educate, and make us think. One reason for reading mysteries is for the comfort of justice being served. Ms. Perry makes us question whether there is such a thing as true justice.

CORRIDORS OF THE NIGHT (Hist Mys-Monk/Hester-England-1800s) – VG+
Perry, Anne – 21st in series
Ballantine Books – Sept 2015

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