William Monk, now commander of the Thames River Police’s Wapping Station, finally closes his late predecessor’s last case.
Everyone in Queen Victoria’s London knows that Jericho Phillips is the scourge of the Thames. Holed up in a well-guarded craft, he keeps a stable of young boys working to provide an unending stream of photographs for gentlemen with a taste for sodomy and pornography. But knowing isn’t proving, as Monk finds to his fury after he chases Phillips down and arrests him. None other than Sir Oliver Rathbone, the former suitor of Monk’s wife Hester, is engaged by an anonymous client of Arthur Ballinger, Rathbone’s father-in-law, to defend Phillips. Exploiting his insider’s knowledge of the passionate hatred of Phillips that Monk inherited from Commander Durban, the mentor who died heroically in his last case (A Christmas Grace, 2008), Rathbone is able to persuade a jury that Monk’s arrest was based on prejudice rather than facts. His defeat forces Monk and Hester to start all over again, this time with the knowledge that Phillips is fully aware of their intentions and ready to anticipate each move. Perry offers the usual fare, except that this time the ceremonious speeches decrying human-rights abuses are less facile and more directly relevant, and the courtroom scenes are more plausible. Only readers new to Monk’s exploits can doubt the outcome.
Perry hammers every point home mercilessly, but fans of this well-upholstered series have surely learned long since to deal with repetition.