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by Anne Perry

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1998
ISBN: 0-449-90849-6
Publisher: Ballantine

Why would handsome, courteous, brilliant young architect Killian Melville—maneuvered (all unwitting, Melville insists to Sir Oliver Rathbone) into wedding plans by patron Barton Lambert’s daughter Zillah and her pushy mother Delphine—refuse to marry the lady, a paragon of beauty and virtue, and her wealthy father’s heiress? As Lambert family barrister Wystan Sacheverall calls witness after damning witness to the stand in the breach-of-promise suit the Lamberts have entered on behalf of their blushing daughter, Rathbone, convinced that his client is holding out on him and desperate to discover his secret, engages bulldog inquiry agent William Monk, abetted as usual by omnicompetent nurse Hester Latterly (The Silent Cry, 1997, etc.), to investigate both the Lambert family and Killian Melville. Monk doesn’t turn up anything likely to forestall the expected judgment against Melville, but then suddenly the case is rendered moot by a revelatory stroke of violence most savvy fans will have been waiting for impatiently. The aftermath may seem anticlimactic—especially since Perry has already entered her typically leisurely condemnations of a host of Victorian evils, from the siege of Cawnpore to the rights of women—but this time the surprises she’s kept for last will knit the whole novel together more tightly than anything she’s published in the past ten years. A banquet for history buffs who live to see the Victorians chastised for acting like citizens of their age, or commended for having the rare good sense to advocate the views of our own. (Mystery Guild main selection; author tour)