The Face of A Stranger

The Face of A Stranger

eBook - 2011
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His name, they tell him, is William Monk, and he is a London police detective. But the accident that felled him has left him with only half a life; his memory and his entire past have vanished. As he tries to hide the truth, Monk returns to work and is assigned to investigate the brutal murder of a Crimean War hero and man about town. Which makes Monk's efforts doubly difficult, since he's forgotten his professional skills along with everything else ...
Publisher: New York : Fawcett/Ballantine Books, [2011], c1990.
ISBN: 9780307777836
0307777839
Characteristics: 1 online resource (276 p.)

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wyenotgo
Jan 15, 2020

This starts off with great promise. There are several unique features that I don’t recall having encountered in any previous murder mystery. First off, the story is told in third person but from several points of view (not limited to that of the protagonist, detective William Monk) thereby offering quite pithy insights into his character and behavior as seen by other actors in the drama. And secondly, Monk is faced with having to solve two unrelated mysteries at once, one of them being to discover what sort of man he himself is, since he is suffering from a total loss of memory. The fact that he begins to find his own personality to be singularly unappealing adds a welcome bit of spice. How often do any of us truly get to “see ourselves as others see us”? And the book is set in mid-nineteenth century England, a setting that I often find very engaging, largely due to sharply defined social boundaries and the conflicts that those issues entail; along with the emerging impact of the industrial revolution and the beginning of disillusionment with the glories of the Empire.
But midway through the book, problems begin to emerge. We meet a lengthy series of upper-class individuals in three or four loosely connected families; there is a depressing sameness of the entire self-satisfied lot. And when Hester, the second main character is belatedly introduced, it is clumsily done; her internal monologue becomes tiresome rather than revelatory (and much the same can be said for Monk). The multiple POV strategy isn’t working well. Then there are inconsistencies between what characters say and the conclusions Monk draws from their statements, contributing to a state of growing confusion as to who knows what at each step along the way. And it gets worse toward the end as there are inconsistencies (e.g. what did the porter see or not see, when and why?) and the story unravels into scenarios that are simply not credible.
Perry’s trick of compelling Monk to gradually discover his own identity is clever: knowing (I suppose) that this will be the first of a series of Monk books, the trick enables her to introduce him to us and (hopefully) get readers ‘hooked’ on her protagonist. But here again things did not go well for me. I did not find Monk to be a particularly engaging character and the rest of the cast even less so. Starting off a story with a protagonist who has lost his memory can, if handled skillfully, make for a compelling reading experience. Peter May used that device brilliantly in "Coffin Road". It has the potential to immediately engender empathy and curiosity on the part of the reader. But as far as I’m concerned, Anne Perry is not in Peter May’s class.

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Dreamstime
Jan 11, 2019

This book was a great surprise. I loved Monk (interesting namesake) considering his struggle for remembering who he is, who his friends and enemies are, and everything about his past. Another important character emerges who enriches the story. I liked how their relationship gradually evolves as the story arrives at a satisfying conclusion. I am looking forward to reading more about him and hopefully both.

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pamjgibbs
Oct 26, 2018

Book 1 of series

JCLBetM Aug 27, 2018

I still remember the moment I first laid eyes on this book. I was in high school, and I was browsing the mystery section in the library one evening, when I saw The Face of a Stranger on a book spine. My attention was captured, and the first line of the little snippet on the back sealed my interest: "His name, they tell him, is William Monk, and he is a London police detective."

The first in a series of mid-1800s Victorian mystery novels following William Monk, this story begins with Monk waking up alone in a hospital — no memory, no friends; the only things he does have are his detecting skills and a lot of people who don’t like him — including himself.

The story and the character of Monk are starkly honest. Anne Perry not only outright asks the question — how do you face the unknown darkness, the monstrosity inside your own brain, your own soul? — she also walks her character through it with distinction.

And, in addition to creating complex characters and good story lines that deal with issues of importance, her books also slips great lines in among the action:

"Hope hurt like a physical thing."

If you haven’t read any Anne Perry, I’d recommend plunging in with this one.

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DorisWaggoner
Jun 05, 2017

A man awakes in hospital, without any idea of who he is or his past. A visitor tells him he's a police inspector; the visitor is his boss, and dislikes him. He's had an accident. When he returns to work, he's given a job he has no idea how to solve. A Crimean war hero has been murdered. Among those he meets is a woman who rubs him very much the wrong way, though he's attracted to her married sister. The abrasive woman was a nurse in the Crimea, and is able to help him solve the case. The amnesia isn't solved, though a few memories return. He does learn that he too is abrasive and doesn't like himself much. The is the first in a long series of mysteries that begin in Victorian London. Read them in order.

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ReadRobin
Mar 02, 2016

On my second reading I enjoyed this book even more. I have read every book in the Monk Series, the Pitt Series, and the other series Perry has written. I love the detail about 19th century London. More people should read Perry, even if only to know what sort of place Conservatives crave to return us to.

AuntJane Dec 29, 2013

I am new to Anne Perry novels (just read a Christmas novella which I enjoyed) and thought I would try her full length books and start at the beginning of the Monk series. I thought this was a great story, interesting characters and Ioved the historical details. I read it in one day curled up on the couch!

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blueroo276
Oct 29, 2012

I've read all of Perry's other Victorian mystery series, the Thomas & Charlotte Pitt books, and loved them. Face of a Stranger is set slightly earlier, and with an entirely different set of characters. Our protagonist, Detective Monk, has had an accident resulting in complete amnesia, and thus has to solve not only his current case, but the mystery of who he is. I won't say more so I won't spoil anything, but definitely an engrossing story.

k
KittyKoko
Dec 23, 2009

Great series of murder/mystery books with amnesiac Inspector William Monk as the protagonist. The series starts out just after the Crimean War in 1856. The works are historical fiction and are excellent in their descriptions of what war, the British courtroom, women's place in society, and the British healthcare system were like in Victorian England.

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