Like reading Thackeray edited by Elmore Leonard

Blind Justice

Blind Justice
Blind Justice

Inspector William Monk searches for proof of his friend's innocence in a controversial and dangerous case, in the nineteenth novel in Anne Perry's acclaimed series. Oliver Rathbone, now a judge, is presiding over a trial for corruption. Proud of his elevation to this position, he is determined to be proper and fair, and, with much skill, convicts a deeply corrupt man. On the back of this success Rathbone is given a controversial new case: that of a charismatic minister accused of using other people's faith for his own gain. This will be a real test of skill, perhaps even dangerous - is this what Rathbone wants?

A sensational case begins. True to his principles, Rathbone delivers justice - but at a cost, as murder and suicide ensue, and he is arrested under the charge of blackmail. Can Monk unravel the truth behind the court hysteria? Or will Rathbone spend the rest of his years in prison for exposing a relevant truth, in an appropriate way, for a cause he saw as just?

  • "William Monk, of Queen Victoria’s Thames River Police (A Sunless Sea, 2012, etc.), steps outside his bailiwick to rescue his friend Sir Oliver Rathbone from a dire fate. It all begins when Monk’s wife, Hester, hears from Josephine Raleigh, one of her assistants at the clinic she runs in Portpool Lane, that Abel Taft has extracted so many donations to the poor from his Nonconformist congregants that some of them, including Josephine’s father, John, are approaching destitution themselves. Brothel keeper–turned-bookkeeper Squeaky Robinson, pressed by Hester to investigate the Brothers of the Poor, soon reports that precious few of those donations are actually going to the poor, and Taft is promptly put on trial for fraud. Rathbone, newly appointed to the bench, is the presiding judge, and he soon realizes that the case isn’t going nearly as well as it should. Under the expert questioning of Taft’s barrister, Blair Gavinton, Brothers of the Poor steward Robertson Drew succeeds in making Taft’s accusers, including Hester herself, look silly, intemperate or malicious. Suddenly, Rathbone realizes that he has a secret weapon against Drew: an extremely compromising photograph bequeathed to him by his malignant father-in-law, Arthur Ballinger (Execution Dock, 2009), that would utterly destroy Drew’s reputation and render his testimony worthless. Should he share the photo with prosecutor Dillon Warne or keep it to himself? After much agonizing, Rathbone decides to share it—and then watches as a stunning development in the case leads to his own arrest for perverting the course of justice. Now it looks as if the imprisoned judge will either rot in jail or fall victim to one of the criminals he’d tried—unless of course Monk and Hester can somehow clear his name. Paring back on her usual period detail, Perry produces her fleetest tale in years. If the courtroom sequences are never exactly surprising, they’re guaranteed to produce the deep satisfaction you feel after hearing a series of particularly rousing speeches." Kirkus Review,
  • "This book revolves around a whopper of a moral problem: What do you do when only you are in a position to stop great evil, at the cost of betraying a promise and ruining your life? If you take the safe course, you won’t be able to live with yourself, and innocent people will be harmed either way. Damned if you do and damned if you don’t—the dilemma that faces Sir Oliver Rathbone in Anne Perry’s latest in the William Monk series. Previously, Sir Oliver was the dynamic a lawyer who fought impassioned courtroom battles with his close friends William Monk, a river policeman commander, and his wife Hester, a crusading nurse. This trio has worked against the dark social forces and underdeveloped laws of Victorian England for 19 volumes. They always have to fight from a disadvantage, but the light of their rightness and caring has triumphed over darkness every time, just in the nick of time. Same happens here, but this time Sir Oliver stands at the heart of the struggle. His success as a defender of Justice has elevated him to a judge, only to become “disturbed by his inability to do anything except watch and listen.” When a financial fraud case with far-reaching consequences crosses his bench—initiated, ironically, by Hester—he realizes he lacks the impartiality required for his job. “One could never be fully impartial and still be human,” he discovers, which spurs him to use the evidence he inherited in a previous book to intervene behind the scenes and tip Justice’s scales in the right direction. After agonizing over his decision, he takes the honorable but disastrous course that lands him in jail for perversion of justice and then on public trial. Here he learns: “It was different from this side of the picture, very different indeed. How simple it is when the victim is somebody else. Justice is so easy from the blind end, nicely cushioned from everything except the knowledge of an uninvolved conscience.” Sir Oliver’s conscience becomes plenty involved from both ends and crashes together in the middle. He emerges a humbler, wiser man with changed priorities and lifelong scars. The story takes place predominantly in the courtroom. It starts with the case that provokes Sir Oliver to overstep his limits then covers his own case in response. His loyal friends do some running around London digging up crucial evidence to save him, but most of the story is cerebral and occurs in confined spaces. Fans of action will find this setup soporific. Readers who enjoy deep thought and emotional crisis will get an extravaganza of both. Those who love Victorian England will relish Ms. Perry’s presentation of period details. Her mastery of this time and place gives credence to the characters’ moral and legal struggles. Unfortunately, she’s prone to preachiness, which makes an otherwise gripping story tiresome at intervals. In Blind Justice, however, she adds some freshness with a new character voice, that of Scruff, the mudlark adopted earlier in the series by Monk and Hester. Now 13 and street savvy beyond his parents’ ken, Scruff helps “detect” and contributes critical details to Sir Oliver’s defense. The narrative ends up edgy because of its constant clash of opposites: dramatic and dull in style, spiritual and material in subjects, privileged vs. impoverished in theme, and always about good against evil. It’s nice to see Sir Oliver featured with Monk and Hester as seconds, instead of the other way around. What will become of him is a question that hopefully be answered in the next book. Reviewer Carolyn Haley " New York Journal of Books,
  • "You can always rely on Anne Perry to deliver so much more than a routine Victorian crime mystery. Her two best-selling series, one featuring Inspector Thomas Pitt and the other starring Inspector William Monk and his competent and caring wife Hester, have helped her become one of the The Times newspaper’s 20th Century ‘100 Masters of Crime.’ These thought-provoking, atmospheric thrillers harness the murky underbelly of Dickensian London with plotlines that ask soul-searching questions about the moral and ethical values of society both yesterday and today. Perry is never afraid to probe deep into the heart of 19th century darkness, and Blind Justice, her nineteenth William Monk novel, exposes the vulnerabilities of organised religion, the precarious boundaries of justice and the flaws within the legal system. Hester Monk is disturbed to learn from one of the young nurses at her London clinic for sick and injured prostitutes that a local Nonconformist church minister has been pressurising members of his congregation into giving more money than they can afford, causing serious financial debts. Never one to shy away from making waves, Hester sets off to investigate and soon suspects that the minister, Abel Taft, could well be lining his own pockets rather than spending church cash on good causes. Before long the police are called in and Taft, a charismatic leader adored by his congregation, stands accused of a fraud which has ruined lives and betrayed those church members who put their trust in him. Meanwhile, Sir Oliver Rathbone, one of the most brilliant barristers in England and William Monk’s close friend, has recently presided brilliantly over his first case as a judge but the Taft trial will be a far greater challenge. In court, each victim affirms Taft’s guilt but when the defence’s star witness tears their stories apart, the case seems lost. However, Rathbone realises that locked away at his home, he has a piece of damning evidence that could change the outcome of the trial and bring true justice. Can he, as the judge, become involved? His decision draws Monk deep into a dangerous case that will shape the rest of both their lives... Rich and poor, good and bad, hypocrisy, benevolence and corruption all come under Perry’s discerning gaze in a complex and psychologically astute story which marries suspense with serious issues of morality and conscience. The relationship between Monk and Hester – a union founded on affection, integrity and mutual respect – continues to flourish amidst the dark deeds of a city mired in greed and social inequality. A clever and compelling tale from a master of her art…" Lancashire Evening Post, 2013
  • "Judge Oliver Rathbone, a brilliant lawyer who has reached the pinnacle of his career, is the man in the dock, facing disgrace, disbarment and even prison in this latest of Anne Perry’s tense courtroom dramas. In an intriguing switch of focus, Ms. Perry tilts away from her customary championing of the underdogs of Victorian England with a reminder that the aristocracy was also at risk, with everything to lose. William Monk, commander of the Thames River Police, and his indefatigable wife, Hester (not to mention Scuff, their adopted river orphan), play their usual detective roles. But the plot centers almost entirely around Rathbone, a man whose personal and private suffering has not affected his meteoric legal success. He remains bitter that his marriage collapsed because his wife Margaret refused to admit her father was guilty of a crime involving pornographic photographs of children and prominent men. What haunts Rathbone most is that he has those photographs locked in his safe as a ghastly legacy from his late father-in-law, who died in prison. He is reminded of their presence as he hears a fraud case in which a witness proves to be one of those photographed. The question is whether Rathbone should use the photograph as evidence that would change the course of a trial, one in which Abel Taft, a charismatic London minister, is charged with using charitable contributions pressured from his middle-class parishioners to make himself and a partner rich. The dilemma facing Rathbone is his decision to give the prosecution evidence that calls into question the integrity of their chief witness. Since Rathbone was unaware that the witness was in the photograph until he suddenly saw and recognized the man in court, he was prevented from providing the incriminating picture for the defense. What he should have done, as he knew too late, was give the evidence to both parties and recuse himself from the case. But that would have meant a mistrial, and the unscrupulous Taft would not have been punished. There is a dramatic development surrounding the death of Taft and his family, but it is of no legal help to Rathbone, and there is also a question regarding how the killings took place. It is Monk who warns the judge, “The question has become whether you as a judge in our legal system, and therefore in a place of unique trust, used secret knowledge to twist the outcome of a trial over which you presided, and that you did it for some personal reason of your own.” It is a grimly accurate assessment of Rathbone’s plight. The conscience of the judge is the crux of Ms. Perry’s plot, and she adroitly contrasts the shock impact of a brutal and sordid jail cell on a man accustomed to the services of a personal valet and a luxurious home. Rathbone is drawn sensitively as he becomes increasingly aware of his own shortcomings and those of the aristocrats who are part of his life. His psychological misery is exacerbated by the hostility of the fellow judge dealing with the Rathbone case, as well as with the rage that explodes from Margaret, his estranged wife. She takes the position that her previous charges that her husband had wrongly accepted the guilt of her father have now been borne out as evidence of his ambition and selfishness. She sits in court with her mother and gloats over Rathbone’s downfall. It is Monk who finds the key to the mystery of Taft’s death, and tracks down the killer, yet Rathbone still has to face the music. Once again, in yet another of Ms. Perry’s gripping tales, it is Monk who plays a major role by helping him decide exactly what to do with the hideous photographs. That in itself is not only a relief, but a culmination to the horrors of a past case that reverberates in the current one. Muriel Dobbin is a former White House and national political reporter for McClatchy newspapers and The Baltimore Sun." Washington Post, September 2013
  • "This is another superbly atmospheric Victorian mystery featuring Inspector William Monk and his gusty wife Hester. Indeeds it's Hester who sparks this latest case when she hears from a nurse at her clinic for poor street girls that charismatic church minister Abel Taft, has been lining his own pockets by extorting money h=from his congregation. It presents a challenging case for Monk and his friend, Judge Oliver Rathbone, to see justice served. Star rating 8." Peterborough Today, September 2013