Blood on the Water: A William Monk Novel
BLOOD ON THE WATER opens with William Monk, Commander of the Thames River Police, enjoying a beautiful and picturesque view. The sun is sitting low in the summer sky, causing shimmering streaks of red to flare across the river. It gives the appearance of blood, something Monk and his colleague, Orme, are about to witness much of on the very same river.
Just moments after savoring the natural beauty of his world, Monk has his world shattered by a tragedy the likes of which he has never before personally witnessed. The pleasure boat Princess Mary erupts in flames as the result of a serious explosion that causes the hull to blow out and leave a gaping hole in its side. Bodies by the dozen are strewn into the Thames River, many dead or injured beyond repair.
"The Thames River itself is so alive here that it is almost like a separate character --- one that bears its own secrets and will forever carry the blood of those who perished on it..."
Monk and Orme spring to action and are able to do what they can. They can take only six survivors onto their own boat without sinking it as other boats begin to head in upon hearing the explosion. As those present witness the Princess Mary submerging and sinking to the bottom of the river, the local authorities and full measure of the River Police are called into action. The end result is over 175 people dead, most of whom were important foreign dignitaries and their families.
Monk volunteers to dive at the wreck site and finds proof of the explosives that caused the sinking of the boat. As he sets about to work the case, he is met by the head of his Home Office, Lydiate, who informs him of the international implications caused by this tragic act of terrorism and relieves him of the case. Monk is taken aback but remains undaunted. He privately vows to do whatever he can to see that justice is carried out for those lost on the Princess Mary.
Utilizing former colleagues, acquaintances and his own young charge --- the now 16-year-old Scuff, who he had rescued and given a home to years earlier --- Monk begins to carry out his own investigation. In all of Anne Perry's work, her protagonists act as a moral compass for the turbulent Victorian era in London, and Monk is no different in BLOOD ON THE WATER.
Before he is able to get anywhere, Monk learns that a suspect has been apprehended. An Egyptian man, Habib Beshara, is instantly brought to trial. It takes the court and jury only a few days to find Beshara guilty and sentenced in three weeks to be hanged by the neck until dead. Monk and his wife, Hester, who attended each day of the court proceedings, found the evidence to be purely circumstantial, and the swift justice supposedly administered may have been misguided at best.
As Monk questions why a man who is so ill he may not even live until his execution should be targeted for the terrorist act committed against the Princess Mary, enough people start to listen. In fact, the investigation is re-opened and returned to the capable hands of the River Police. However, it is not merely a race against the clock to find the real culprit or culprits before Beshara is executed, but a case where some extremely influential and powerful people do not want the investigation to succeed --- even if that means permanently silencing Monk.
BLOOD ON THE WATER finds Anne Perry in her usual fine form, effortlessly immersing the reader in London's Victorian Era. The Thames River itself is so alive here that it is almost like a separate character --- one that bears its own secrets and will forever carry the blood of those who perished on it, while the age of international commerce through European waterways continues to expand.
Reviewed by Ray Palen on September 19, 2014