In this, the 19th installment in Perry’s William Monk series, a moral dilemma is presented to us: if someone knows that a crime has been committed, does he have a moral obligation to ensure that justice is served, no matter the cost to him?
Monk’s wife, Hester, works with a young woman whose father is in dire financial straits, having been effectively coerced into making exorbitant donations to a church by its pastor. Since Hester’s father committed suicide after finding himself in much the same circumstances, Hester is determined to bring the thief to justice. The case is assigned to the Monks’ old friend, Sir Oliver Rathbone, who recognizes how difficult it will be to obtain a conviction, even if justified by the evidence.
At a critical point in the proceedings, Rathbone, in possession of crucial evidence which will convict the wrongdoer, finds a way to get that evidence into the “right hands,” ensuring a conviction. Something goes terribly wrong, though – and Rathbone is arrested for perverting the course of justice. Monk goes to work as an inquiry agent, seeking to find exculpatory evidence to free his friend.
Although I enjoy the Monk books thoroughly, I became weary of the inner workings of Rathbone’s thoughts. What saved the book for me was Perry’s ability to focus on the great inequality between rich and poor and how the judicial system can be manipulated by corrupt individuals in high positions. As always, an insightful foray into Victorian London, and for me, an attorney, the British legal system.