Acceptable Loss by Anne Perry
When is loss acceptable? When does one man’s death not diminish the lives of others? Indeed, could it be a good thing when someone who is vile dies? Should law enforcement seek as hard to find the culprit? These and other weighty questions are raised and answered in Anne Perry’s newest Victorian mystery, Acceptable Loss.
Acceptable Loss picks up a few weeks after the conclusion of events in Execution Dock, the previous entry in the William Monk murder mystery series. Scuff, a boy from the streets has been rescued from a child prostitution ring and taken in by William and Hester Monk. The boy, who has survived so much, can’t seem to totally recover from the horrors he had experienced when a street urchin. When one of the men responsible for Scuff’s condition is found dead, Monk knows he has to try to find the killer even though the man had been reprehensible in life. To help Scuff move on, Monk decides to not only find the killer but to find the leader of the child prostitution ring and stop him. The decision puts him at odds with Oliver and Margaret Rathbone. Margaret’s father, a well-respected gentleman of the upper class, is suspected of being a ringleader in the child porn ring. We see Monk slowly get to the bottom of the ring, with Hester’s aid as usual. We also see Rathbone struggle to do the right thing even as his father-in-law comes under ever-increasing scrutiny.
This is the 17th Inspector Monk novel and Hester (formerly Latterly) has been in all of them; at first as a nurse with a penchant for investigating murder, and later as Monk’s wife. It has been interesting to see Monk and Hester’s relationship grow over the years. Hester is a very strong, independent-minded woman who also has a big soft spot for anyone who is struggling, whether it is a prostitute or a child of the streets. Monk, who had lost part of his memory in the first novel, has evolved over the years from hard-nosed police officer to caring investigator. Their friendship with barrister Rathbone has likewise grown and evolved over the years. We see more of Margaret and Rathbone’s relationship in this novel and it’s interesting to see the differences in the two couples. Rathbone and his wife live very well while Monk and Hester just get by. All the characters in a Perry novel are intricately drawn and one begins to feel they know them personally, even if they are from another century!
Perry is praised for her Victorian novels for shining a spotlight on the social issues of the day. Execution Dock and Acceptable Loss both were uncomfortable reading at times because child prostitution is such a horrible societal ill. Perry does not shy away from the subject but she is not graphic either. However, the reader becomes deeply involved in the plot as Perry moves through a labyrinth of clues to bring the novel to a satisfying conclusion.
I loved this novel; but then, I love all Anne Perry novels. Since I seem to feel she gets better with every novel, I have no problem in tagging this one as excellent and recommended.