Tuesday, 25 November 2014

The Face of a Stranger - Anne Perry

This novel really stood out for me among other detective fiction. For one thing, it begins very unexpectedly – with the detective having entirely lost his memory following a carriage accident in which he suffered head injuries. William Monk’s sense of loss and his discomfort with feeling at odds with his former self are portrayed well throughout the novel. The other thing that sets it apart is the fact that, as well as the central mystery, this story is very much about people. They aren’t merely pieces in a puzzle, but feel like well-rounded characters with a past and a future. You really come to care about their fates in a way that I don’t often find in detective series.

The only negative thing I have to say about The Face of a Stranger is that it does tend towards being anachronistic in its values. Monk feels contempt towards his former self’s apparent social mobility, now thinking of the upper classes as no better than the lower, and the female protagonist, Miss Hester Latterly, is predictably independent with no patience for convention. Both characters are well-drawn and compelling, but neither really seem to suit the environment in which they’re placed. That said, it’s very hard to find historical novels that don’t modernise the views of the central characters to some extent.

The central mystery itself is cleverly done, and very human rather than being a contorted logical puzzle, which fits the tone of the novel very well. Definitely worth reading!

Next up: Half Moon Street by Anne Perry

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