A tragic accident leaves Inspector Monk with amnesia just moments after he solves the murder of a popular Crimean war hero. Forced to redo his entire investigation, a frustrated Monk faces a desperate murderer who will do anything to keep the inspector from discovering the truth twice.
Crack another case with William Monk.
©1990 Anne Perry; (P)1995 Recorded Books, LLC
trying to see the world with my ears
I'm very glad to see this first book of the Inspector Monk series on Audible. Every time I finish an Anne Perry mystery I wish she had edited the thing just once more to tighten dialogue or tidy plot points, but I keep downloading them. They are engaging, with good setting details of Victoian England and fairly interesting characters. She is not a mistress of atmosphere like P D James, but Perry does consistently create better than average atmospheric light historical mysteries without graphic sex or violence and without too much of the dark side.
Even if you're not enough of a Perry fan to contemplate listening to the entire series, this first instalment has added interest due to the brain injury of the protagonist and a slightly earlier setting than Perry's Charlotte and Thomas Pitt series. By the way, whoever wrote the publisher's summary in the product description obviously did not read the book--Monk's antagonist is his brain injury irself-- that's what most makes this book worth reading.
As detective fiction goes, I enjoyed this and plan to listed to the next in the series. But ditto to the reviewer's comment about the need for more editing. Really tiresome at points -- millions of repetitive, unanswerable questions (who am I?) that can't be answered b/c of total amnesia. In print you can skim that stuff but for audio, I might recommend an abridged version.
I like Davina Porter much better than most narrators, and, for me, narrators are as important as the novel itself.
Cozy mysteries: MC Beaton, Agatha Christie, Rhys Bowen, more.
Wonderful characterizations! Felt like I knew everyone at the end. Monk's haunting memory loss and the method of repeating questions made me think a long time about re-starting relationships using only reactions. Excellent reader, too. The one additional thing I hope for in the remaining books is to share a character's delight in something. All mysteries contain darkness. However, in Agatha Christie and other "cozy mysteries" the cottages, gardens, and seaside are warming. In Patrick O'Brian's rich Aubrey-Maturin series, the music, the sea & nature, etc, engage repeatedly. This Monk novel does include a wonderful estate, and I hope we will roam it much more often in coming books, to smell the roses, tread the leafy paths, perhaps find a ghost in the kitchen. I look forward to the very interesting Monk-Hester relationship.
Mystery reader (especially series) and Austen lover
By the time this book came out in 1990, beginning the Monk and Hester series, Anne Perry had already been writing the Inspector Pitt novels for 11 years, and I had read all 9 of the then published books in that series. Clearly, I liked the Pitt books, particularly the characters and the historic detail concerning woman's place in the middle and upper classes.
But when I read the first Monk book, "Face of a Stranger," I was blown away. Set at an earlier time in the 19th century, shortly after the Crimean War, this book had more complicated characters I liked much more than Pitt and Charlotte. A police inspector who has almost total amnesia from an accident, trying to carry on in his police job without letting his superiors know that he has no memory. And an unmarried woman who nursed with Florence Nightingale on the battlefields of the Crimea, now trying to improve health care services in England and make a living for herself. Both characters are complicated, opinionated, and abrasive, especially with each other.
Not for these characters the almost immediate attraction of Pitt and Charlotte, growing into love and marriage all in the beginning of the series. No, Monk and Hester Latterly dislike each other at first glance, and even after each begins to see the positive characteristics of the other, their interactions are often laced with antagonism and argument. They become unwilling allies in the case which Monk investigates in this first book, and their subsequent adventures continue to be on a less than amiable footing for some time through the series.
The historical details regarding everything from the hospitals of that day, to the low status of Scotland Yard, to the precarious nature of life for those who have to struggle to support themselves, and the vast difference of the lives of the well-to-do, are fascinating and presented in a way that often causes the reader to recognize the injustice of such matters.
After this first Monk book, I continued to read both the Pitt books and the Monk books, but I always looked forward the most to the Monk books. It has been interesting to see the development of the characters, including Sir Oliver Rathbone, over the years.
Listening to this book was a pleasant return to the beginning, made even better by the superlative narration of Davina Porter. She does the accents of Englishmen and women from all over the empire, and from all areas and classes of London, impeccably.
Long may this series continue to flourish!
People always compare mysteries to Agatha Cristie but this book really did remind me of her style of mysteries. Gentle, thoughtful, interesting mysteries but set in Victorian London which contains plenty of seedy dirt to keep you interested. Imagine Hercule Poirot has amnesia and in discovering who he is he finds not only the talent and love of justice but also realizes he's been a complete ass and doesn't like it. (I bet Cristie would have wished she'd thought of this as she grew to find Poirot an intolerable ass) Thats Monk, the main character who must unravel his past as well as a high class mystery. In addition you get the charming, graceful and intelligent young Evan, Monk's idealistic assistant and the no nonsense, piercing wit of Hester, the frustraitting woman in Monk's life. Perry packs these novels with intensely likable characters who are intuitive and empathetic. I think because this book is establishing these characters, it has just a few parts where it runs long but I found it an entirely satisfying listen. This is a character driven, thoughtful mystery so if you want tons of explosions and sex, this is not the series for you. I love the addition of history to such lovely mysteries. (I just started #2 and it seems even better and a bit faster paced) Oh and this is the perfect medium for Davina Porter, who is an excellent narrator and I don't tend to like female narrators.
Seems I will have to purchase the following books. This was a very easy listen. The characters identifiable, however no feeling of attachment. I felt lost at times. Though I did fall asleep on a few occasions. This is worth the purchase by all means. I will follow Anne Perry,s Monk.
I am a retired Court Reporter and I LOVE books. All kinds of books but my favorites are mysteries and period books. I like civil war books and some biographies.
I really do like this series. I wish I had listened to this one first. I've read some of the others out of order.
I am an avid eclectic reader.
So glad Audible has the beginning books in this series. I can now start to read them in order. Have read a few of the latest ones. This book makes everything fall into place. Perry does a great job painting a picture of London/England in the 1850's. The description of the social problems of day shows how far we have come and how easy it might be to fall back into the past again. Can not wait to start the next book to see if Hester and Monk get together. This is the time in history that the role of women began to make major changes then the biggest change came with WWI.
Have re-discovered "quality time." Evenings listening to good books have replaced mindless tv watching. What a difference!
In most books, I have to listen for a while to get all the characters and situation in my mind. In this one, I was hooked almost from the first sentence. I'd had this in my library for a while, and passed it by, not feeling inspired by the notion of an amnesiac detective trying to solve a separate, different crime. What astonishment I felt when I realized that this is one of the best-crafted, well thought out, engaging and wonderfully narrated mysteries I've encountered in quite a long time.
Anne Perry, who wrote this many years ago,has assembled a challenging story of a double mystery (Monk's own identity and that of a murder) in a way that is neither overly complicated to follow nor challenging to one's belief system. I had thought the premise might have been a bit over the top, so avoided this book. Don't do it! This is a great book--one that I find notable for both it's writing style and it's good mystery.
I believe the beginning, the unfolding of how Monk discovers that he doesn't know who he is, is exceedingly interesting, credible, and works so very well with the story as a whole. His search for his own identity is taking place as a quiet, private matter while he works a very public case for the "Peelers" (newly formed police department in Victorian era London).
Many people have already written reviews about this--I want to echo the ones that praise it. Perry's weaving of the two plots in and out is very skillful and very rarely strayed into a forced conversation or interaction between characters to get to where she was leading the reader (listener). Just for the actual skill of assembling this book I would give it 5 stars. The narration by the excellent Davina Porter is a plus that just put it over the top for me. I only wished it could have been longer--I didn't want it to end! Highly recommend!
Can an author present too much character development? If so, then "The Face of a Stranger" verges on such excess. It does get a bit tedious listening to William Monk anguishing over his amnesia -- almost to the point of whining. He is, improbably, attempting to hide his amnesia from his acquaintances and co-workers, while continuing to function as a detective. One can semi-understand -- given that he is living in Victorian London, with no disability insurance -- Monk's wanting to conceal his amnesia from his boss; but I kept wondering why he didn't want to tell his loving sister about his affliction, for Pete's sake? Also, speaking of character development, why did Monk's boss start off with a jolly, compassionate, friendly demeanor -- when he visits Monk in the hospital -- then transform into Monk's meanest enemy a few chapters later? "The Face of a Stranger" does have some flaws; but, on the other hand, it introduces an intelligent series that truly brings Victorian times to life. If you like historical fiction -- particularly the Victorian era -- then I think that you will enjoy Anne Perry's novels very much. As an extra, added bonus, the most beautiful female voice in all of Audiobookdom narrates "The Face of a Stranger," practically compensating for this novel's minor shortcomings. Davina Porter possesses not only a beautiful voice, but an exceedingly versatile and expertly trained one, as well. It always gives me immense pleasure to hear her rendering the delightful multitude of British accents, and deftly distinguishing all the characters' voices -- both men and women. "The Face of a Stranger" definitely qualifies as a mystery, but not a thriller. If you like some action and testosterone in your audiobooks, then you probably should give "The Face of a Stranger" a pass. If you like romance novels, then you will also want to bypass this one. "The Face of a Stranger' contains no sex or romance at all. However, historical fiction fans who appreciate well-researched settings and beautiful narration will not regret purchasing this audiobook.
A thoroughly good listen. Good Victorian mystery with engaging characters. Several strands of story that flow through the series, yet the writer never gets bogged down in detail and keeps the reader keen to hear more. The narration is clear and the various characters are voiced well without being distracting. A gem of a book.
"And an other great Anne Perry listen"
I love Anne Perry books. All of her books are a joy to listen to. But I think it would have been better to have just one Narrater for the books ( the monk mysteries).
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