Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Acceptable Loss by Anne Perry: A review

If one created a word cloud for the Anne Perry's latest book, Acceptable Loss, the biggest cloud that would float to the front and center would be "humiliation." Close beside that cloud would be "fear" and "pain." All three of these emotions are perceived through the various characters' eyes, so "eyes" would have a major place in the cloud-orama as well.

I've always liked Anne Perry's writing for its social consciousness and its evocation of the period in which it is set, in the case of the William Monk series, the Victorian period in England. Perry is really excellent at describing the horrors of that period, in particular the atrocities committed against women and children while a privileged upper class simply chose to remain oblivious. Indeed, in some instances, the atrocities committed were for the pleasure and amusement of that privileged upper class, as is the case in this book and the previous entry, Execution Dock. But, my God, she has become repetitious in her writing.

Over and over again in this book, she reminds us that the first murder victim in the story was a truly awful person, a pimp of young boys - very young boys - and she pounds home the idea that the police really don't care who murdered him and might be inclined to pin a medal on him, except when the idea dawns that it could have been a "business" associate. For my taste, she could have made that case once and then left it alone until the end. I don't need to have it shoved down my throat (so to speak) on every page.

This is the seventeenth entry in this long series and it still features characters that I've come to care about - William Monk, now leading the Thames River Police; his indomitable wife Hester with her shelter for abused women; their friend and occasional ally Oliver Rathbone, the brilliant lawyer. In this story, as in the last, the plot pits Rathbone against William and Hester as they fight against the trafficking of young boys in the sex trade on the Thames. Here, Rathbone must defend his father-in-law who, it turns out, may be a backer of that trade. As usual, we follow William on his official investigation of the case and Hester on her thoroughly unofficial investigation as she treads the dangerous streets of the slums along the river. It makes for an interesting juxtaposition.

It seems churlish for a reader of Perry to snarl, "Just the facts, ma'am!" After all, Perry is not just about the facts. She is about the emotions and atmosphere of people and places, and that is a large part of what we love about her writing. But it would be interesting and rather refreshing to read a Perry book that spent a little more time on the facts of the crime and procedures of the investigation and a little less time on reminding us on every page about how honorable our heroes are and almost reveling in their revulsion over the crimes they investigate. The latter evokes in the reader emotions that are just a little too reminiscent of those men who got their pleasure from watching the abuse of small boys.

1 comment:

  1. I think Anne Perry used the word "pain" at least once a page in this book, and I'd hate to think how many times a character said something "tightly" or "tautly," It's become a tic. I admire the fact that she takes on serious social issues in her books, but she's absolutely lacking in humor, and she totally overdoes the angst.

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