by Anne Perry
September 14, 2012
When I started reading the Thomas and Charlotte Pitt mysteries, I decided that I didn't like them as much as the Monk books. I think I am still of that opinion, but this book didn't help much in reinforcing that opinion.
All of the Anne Perry books I've read have been enjoyable to me, this one included. But this one is certainly not one of her best. Perry has the tendency to climb up on the soapbox too often. That's fine - she writes about the social ills of the Victorian Age. Opium use and abuse is the subject of A Sunless Sea. But she speaks from the soapbox more gracefully in some books than in others.
In A Sunless Sea the body of a woman is found on a pier. She had been killed by a blow to the head and then eviscerated.
The only person who seems to have been friends with the woman was a Dr. Lambourn who had apparently died by his own hand two months earlier. Through his investigation Monk begins to suspect Dr. Lambourn's widow, Dinah. After arresting her certain things come to light that make him doubt her guilt. Oliver Rathbone is asked to defend her in court and it becomes a race against time to find enough evidence to at least create reasonable doubt in the minds of the jurors.
I usually like the courtroom scenes in the Monk books, but there was just too much of it in this book. Oliver is the lead character here. He enters the plot trying to recover from the loss of his wife Margaret who left him after he failed to successfully defend her father against child abuse/pornography charges. (Good riddance, Margaret). One of the annoying pieces of A Sunless Sea is Oliver's worried ruminating about his failed marriage.
The other annoying aspect is the complete lack of believablity of the legal process in the courtroom scenes. Maybe British courtroom procedure in the late 19th century is very different from now, but many of Oliver's questions, the prosecutor's objections and the judge's decisions would never happen in a modern American courtroom. At least I doubt they'd be allowed.
In spite of the drawbacks, I did enjoy this. Just a little disappointed that it wasn't as good as I wanted it to be