Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Defend and Betray - Anne Perry

    1992; 428 pages.  Book #3 (out of 17) in the "William Monk" series.  New Author? : No.  Genre : Crime Fiction.  Overall Rating : 8*/10.

    Oh my!  Someone has pushed General Thaddeus Carlyon over the banister at the top of the stairs and right down onto a suit of armor (see bookcover).  And with that halberd sticking up in the air.  Fortunately, all that did was daze him.  Until the murderer came downstairs, picked up the halberd, and buried it in his chest.

    Who would do such a dastardly deed?  His wife, that's who. She's confessed to the killing, and said she did it because he was having an affair.

    It's all cut and dried.  Why would anyone think otherwise?  That's what Investigator William Monk wants to find out.

What's To Like...
    There are three "stars" here : Investigator Monk, the barrister Oliver Rathbone, and nurse Hester Latterly.  They all share equal billing, and yet they all have their limitations.  Monk is shrewd, but he's impatient and surly when questioning people - not a good way to get them to talk.  Rathbone seems brilliant - until you meet his father.   And Hester is probably the sharpest of the three, but this is 1857 Victorian England, and women are expected to not be sharp.

    Defend and Betray has a "cozy" start - the murder and confession have already taken place as the book opens.  That's means there's little if any action, and a lot of telling-not-showing as first Rathbone, then Monk, and in some cases also Hester, question each suspect.  You may be tempted to put the book down about halfway through.

    That would be a mistake.  The story builds to the stunning climax, Mrs. Carlyon's trial, and confessed murderess or no, Anne Perry chronicles that whole proceeding with a powerful pen.  It may or may not be realistic (I have no idea what would or would not be allowed in a Victorian courtroom), but the ending will move you.

Kewlest New Word...
Discommoded : inconvenienced; put to trouble.

    He was normally somewhat nervous of women, having spent most of his life in the company of men and having been taught that the gentle sex was different in every respect, requiring treatment incomprehensible to any but the most sensitive of men.  He was delighted to find Hester intelligent, not given to fainting or taking offense where it was not intended, not seeking compliments at every turn, never giggling, and best of all, quite interested in military tactics, a blessing he could hardly believe.  (pg. 11)

    "I am a servant, Mr. Lovat-Smith," she replied with dignity.  "We have a peculiar position - not quite people, not quite furniture.  We are often party to extraordinary scenes because we are ignored in the house, as if we had not eyes or brains.  People do not mind us knowing things, seeing things they would be mortified to have their friends see." (pg. 398)

"Death is often absurd.  People are absurd.  I am!"  (pg. 27)
    D&B is not really a whodunit; it's more of a whydunit.  And on a deeper level, Anne Perry asks an unsettling question - are there times when embarrassing family secrets should be kept secret?  If someone is willing to sacrifice her life to protect innocent victims from public humiliation, is it better to stand back, remain silent, and let her take the fall?

    The last third of the book more than compensates for the rather pedestrian pace of the first part. You will find Defend and Betray to be a riveting read.  But only if you finish it.  8 Stars.

No comments: