Anne Perry’s depiction of Victorian London through her stunning novels have always entertained her readers and allowed them to escape to a bygone time far more dangerous than ever imagined. The William Monk series, in particular, has pushed the envelope and transcended mere historical mystery as it continues to take on weighty issues that compel readers to examine their own conscience.
Never has the precarious double-edged sword that we call justice been so scrutinized by Perry than in her latest effort, BLIND JUSTICE. The great thing about her recurring series, like the Monk and Pitt novels, is that the named characters are not always the focal point of each particular story. In this case, the recurring character Oliver Rathbone takes center stage and finds himself bottle-necked in an ethical and moral dilemma of the highest magnitude.
"This is a staggering achievement for Perry and one that will press readers to look within themselves for answers long before the final pages are turned."
In ACCEPTABLE LOSS, the then-barrister found himself defending his father-in-law, Arthur Ballinger. As the trial wound on, Rathbone was horrified to find that not only was Ballinger guilty but that the crimes he committed were of the most heinous nature. It appears he was blackmailing dozens of wealthy and renowned men within London with photos of a pornographic nature, some of which even depicted illicit sexual acts with children.
When BLIND JUSTICE opens, we find Rathbone now risen to the position of judge, a role he long sought after. He presides over a case whereby a local reverend by the name of Taft is accused of swindling members of his congregation out of all their money in the name of Christian giving and charity. It seems this money was not finding its way to the intended sources but was instead used by Taft and other members of his inner chamber for less than honorable means.
What should have been an open and shut case against Taft takes a sour turn for the prosecution. Justice does not always happen the way people would like it to, and the Taft case apparently is going to end in disappointment for many. Judge Rathbone simply cannot stand for this and realizes he may be able to impact the case against Taft, all in the name of justice. The main witness for the defense is a man named Robertson Drew, who looks eerily familiar to Rathbone. He realizes with horror that the reason the man is known to him by sight is because he is depicted in one of Ballinger’s pornographic photos taken with a child.
Rathbone is able to get this evidence into the hands of the prosecution and trusts that justice will be served. Once it is revealed in court, it seems obvious that the jury will dismiss the character of Drew and find against Taft. Unfortunately, justice has taken a deadly turn when Taft takes his own life along with those of his wife and two young daughters.
Rathbone now finds himself in the unenviable and nightmarish situation of having justice come down upon his own head. He is taken into custody and made to stand trial for obstruction of justice and the deaths of the Taft family. It is through this unforeseen circumstance that Anne Perry’s command of plot and prose shines as BLIND JUSTICE turns into a moral examination of justice, fair play, and just how far good people will go to see them achieved. This is a staggering achievement for Perry and one that will press readers to look within themselves for answers long before the final pages are turned.
Reviewed by Ray Palen on September 6, 2013