As her New York Times bestselling novels always remind us, Anne Perry is a matchless guide to both the splendor and the shame of the British Empire at the height of its influence. In her twentieth William Monk mystery, she brings us to London's grand Mayfair mansions, where the arrogant masters of the Western world hold sway -- and to the teeming Thames waterfront, where one summer afternoon, Monk witnesses the horrifying explosion of the pleasure boat Princess Mary, which sends to their deaths nearly two hundred merrymakers.
The tragedy is no accident. As commander of the River Police, Monk should handle the case, but the investigation is turned over to the commissioner of the Metropolitan Police. An Egyptian man is swiftly caught, tried, and sentenced to die. But almost as quickly, Monk presents evidence that Habib Beshara, though a nasty piece of work, was elsewhere at the time of the blast. The investigation, now in complete disarray, is hastily turned over to Monk.
Is the crime connected with the soon-to-be-opened Suez Canal, which will enormously benefit wealthy British shipping companies? Or did all of those innocent people drown to ensure the death of just one? How did the bomber board the ship, and how did he manage to escape? Is he an anarchist or a madman?
Backed up by his astute wife, Hester, and his old reliable friend Oliver Rathbone, Monk vows to find answers -- but instead finds himself treading the dangerous waters of international intrigue, his questions politely turned aside by a formidable array of the powerful and privileged. Events twist and turn like the Thames itself, leading to the shattering moment when Monk realizes, perhaps too late, that he is the next target.
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It is very obvious to me after reading this book why the William and Hester Monk series remains my favourite mystery series. This book is another winner in this long-running series. In it we see a Victorian act of terrorism when a pleasure boat with 200 souls aboard is blown up while it is sailing in the Thames. Monk and his right-hand man Orme happen to have a front-row seat to this horrific disaster as they are also on the Thames that night and not far from the Princess Mary when she goes down. It is a crime that shocks a nation. Nothing this large in scale has ever happened in England, and right in their own backyard. And all of England wants the perpetrator found and brought to immediate justice. Monk wants this too as he is haunted by the sight of the tragedy and by the survivors that he and Orme managed to save on that fateful night. But to what lengths will the people of England, and in particular, the Justice system go to solve this crime? Monk and Hester along with the help of their young ward Scuff, Monk's River Police and their old friend Oliver Rathbone band together to see that justice is done, especially when it becomes apparent that the swift ending to the tragedy brought about by the justice system may be an equally tragic failure to that justice system. An innocent man may have been tried and convicted of the crime and Monk and Hester can't stand for that. This book was a page-turner as all the books in this truly wonderful series are. I love the characters and I love the setting (Victorian London), and I always love the mysteries!