Two bodies are discovered in the dead of night in one of the toughest, seediest slums of London. They've been savagely beaten; one is dead and the other is just barely clinging to life. Well, these things happen in St. Giles.
But there are a couple odd things. The two men are richly dressed. What would they be doing in such a neighborhood? And they turn out to be father and son. And as the investigation proceeds, it appears they were fighting each other. Could the son have murdered his father?
What's To Like...
The Silent Cry is my introduction to William Monk, and I like him. He's short on charm, yet has a certain persuasiveness about him. He sometimes reaches wrong conclusions. He quit the police force in a huff some time back, but due to a bout of amnesia, he doesn't know why. Best of all, he's not burnt out.
The setting - London in 1860 - is nicely done. The historical fiction is convincing, without distracting from the plot itself. There is a running storyline in this series (now up to 17 books), but this is also a stand-alone book.
The mystery unfolds nicely. There are three main good guys - the investigator William Monk, the cop John Evan, and the nurse Hester Latterly. They all seem to be working on spearate cases, but you know they're going to converge at some point, and Anne Perry carries this out seamlessly.
Kewlest New Word...
Running Patterer : a street peddler, specifically one who tries to sell his wares via long, glib, entertaining spiels on public thoroughfares.
She was also to keep his room warm and pleasant for him, and to read to him should he show any desire for it. The choice of material was to be made with great care. There must be nothing disturbing, either to the emotions or to the intellect, and nothing which would excite him or keep him from as much rest as he was able to find. In Hester's view, that excluded almost everything that was worthy of either the time or effort of reading. If it did not stir the intellect, the emotions or the imagination, what point was there in it? Should she read him the railway timetable? (pgs. 38-39)
"'Ow do I know? I seen lots o' geezers wot don't belong 'ere, but usual yer knows wot they're 'ere for. Reg'lar brothels or gamblin', or ter 'ock summink as they daren't 'ock closer ter 'ome." (pg. 185)
"The wisest thing ... is to accept blindness and not either to blame yourself or to blame others too much." (pg. 120)
The Silent Cry is an entertaining read, but problems arise when you begin to analyze the technical aspects of the mystery. For starters, the victim/suspect's injuries render him unable to speak or write; so he is reduced to nodding his head yes or no. But couldn't Nurse Hester point to letters or words on a chalkboard to improve his communications abilities? And if he wasn't inclined to communicate, why give him those injuries in the first place?
There are at least three other similar inconsistencies, but since they border on being spoilers, I'll list them in the Comments section of this post.
Also, the ending is a bit weak. The mystery is solved; the innocent defendant is exonerated. But the real perps are not apprehended, and therefore we don't get the dramatic (albeit hackneyed) confession from the guilty as to why they did it.
The Silent Cry is not a bad story, but it could've been so much better if the last 50 pages of it had been tightened up. I blame the editor. 7 Stars.