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The Silent Cry
by Anne Perry

Ivy Books
Paperback $6.99 ($8.99 Canadian)

Reviewed by Therese Greenwood

The class system and the wide gap between rich and poor provide the background for this Perry book, now out in paperback. While North American readers may not be overly familiar with the European caste system, we are all too well-acquainted with the dehumanization that turns the poor into fair game as victims.

Perry's story opens by bringing the rich and poor into stark contrast in sunless Water Lane, where respected solicitor Leighton Duff lies dead, kicked and beaten to death. Beside him is the barely living body of his son, Rhys. The question of the murderer's identity pales beside the larger issue of what the victims were doing in this poor and violent neighborhood, where decent gentlemen could never have any legitimate business. It's a puzzle that becomes even more disturbing with detective William Monk's discovery that a lengthy list of poor and desperate women have been victims of similar attacks -- which no one bothered to investigate until the wealthy victims showed up.

William Monk, unsure where his loyalties lie, is the perfect investigator for this case. His accident-induced amnesia means that, while he knows he has come from poverty and aspired to wealth, he has only vague recollections of how he once fit into society. He has no allegiances with the expectation of uneasy alliances with Crimean nurse Hester Latterly -- a social outcast herself, largely due to her struggles to reform British health care -- and Sir Oliver Rathbone, a brilliant defense attorney who clearly moves with the upper crust but who has unsettling questions about his relationship to Hester.

But when society ignores the suffering of its weakest members, the social fabric is bound to tear. As the brutality escalates in what is perhaps Perry's most violent novel, it seems no one is left unscathed.

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