Cover image for Slaves of obsession
Title:
Slaves of obsession
Author:
Perry, Anne.
Personal Author:
Edition:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Ballantine Books, 2000.
Physical Description:
344 pages ; 25 cm
Language:
English
ISBN:
9780345433268
Format :
Book

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Summary

Summary

The year is 1861. The American Civil War has just begun, and London arms dealer Daniel Albertson is becoming a very wealthy man as emissaries from both sides of the conflict rush to purchase his wares. The quiet dinner party held by Albertson and his beautiful wife seems remote indeed from the passions rending America. Yet investigator William Monk and his bride, Hester, sense growing tensions and barely concealed violence in this well-appointed mansion. For two of the guests are Americans, each vying to buy Albertson's armaments. Philo Trace, the Southerner, is both charming and intelligent, but a defender of slavery. Northerner Lyman Breelove is a disturbing blend of political zealot and personal reserve--to whom Albertson's teenage daughter has pledged her heart. Soon Monk and Hester's forebodings are fulfilled. For within this group, one is brutally murdered in a cruel ritualistic fashion, and two others disappear--along with Albertson's entire inventory of weapons. Slaves of Obsession twists and turns like a powder keg fuse as Monk and Hester track the man they believe to be a cold-blooded murderer all the way to Washington D.C. and the bloody battlefield at Manassas. Yet finally, in a hushed London courtroom scene, Anne Perry holds her readers breathless and spellbound while Sir Oliver Rathbone fights to defend the innocent . . . and perhaps the guilty . . . from the hangman's noose.


Author Notes

Anne Perry was born Juliet Hume on October 28, 1938 in Blackheath, London.

Sent to Christchurch, New Zealand to recover from a childhood case of severe pneumonia, she became very close friends with another girl, Pauline Parker. When Perry's family abandoned her, she had only Parker to turn to, and when the Parkers planned to move from New Zealand, Parker asked that Perry be allowed to join them. When Parker's mother disagreed, Perry and Parker bludgeoned her to death. Perry eventually served five and a half years in an adult prison for the crime.

Once she was freed, she changed her name and moved to America, where she eventually became a writer. Her first Victorian novel, The Cater Street Hangman, was published in 1979. Although the truth of her past came out when the case of Mrs. Parker's murder was made into a movie (Heavenly Creatures), Perry is still a popular author and continues to write. She has written over 50 books and short story collections including the Thomas Pitt series, the William Monk series, and the Daniel Pitt series. Her story, Heroes, won the 2001 Edgar Award for Best Short Story. Her title's Blind Justice and The Angel Court Affair made The New York Times Best Seller List.

(Bowker Author Biography)


Reviews 3

Booklist Review

In her eleventh William Monk mystery, Perry, noted for evocations of Victorian-era England, extends her range from the drawing rooms and choked streets of London to the American Civil War. This surprising stretch serves to heighten the reader's sense of the horrors of war by showing it from a British perspective. Monk, a "private agent of enquiry," is asked by a wealthy London gun dealer to clear him of suspicion in the ruin of a Wildean aristocrat who was exploited for his beauty and then left for dead. Monk meets the curious collection of people drawn to gun dealer Albertons' home, including a Confederate and a Union soldier seeking armaments. After an altercation with the Union soldier, Albertons is discovered murdered. Both his armaments and his daughter are missing, presumably gone with the Union soldier, compelling Monk and wife Hester to pursue him to America. Perry's characters are richly drawn and the plot satisfyingly serpentine. However, the best element in this novel is Perry's depiction of the excitement preceding and the butchery during the Battle of Bull Run, reminiscent of Thackeray's unflinching portrait of Waterloo in Vanity Fair. As Hester uses her Crimean War nursing experience to aid the stricken soldiers, her feelings of revulsion and inadequacy are especially compelling. A remarkable addition to the Perry canon. --Connie Fletcher


Publisher's Weekly Review

At the start of Perry's latest Victorian page-turner (after The Twisted Root), London-based private detective William Monk agrees to attend a dinner party at the lush home of arms dealer Daniel Alberton only for the sake of his wife, Hester. Hester, who served as a nurse with Florence Nightingale in the Crimea, is as gregarious as her husband is reserved. At the party, the Monks meet a volatile cast of characters, including Daniel's wife, Judith, a half-Italian beauty devoted to her husband and their 16-year-old daughter, Merrit. Daniel clearly adores Judith, as does her cousin, Casbolt, her husband's dapper partner in the arms business. Merrit, however, is blinded by passion for Lyman Breeland, a tall, thirtyish American who has come to England to buy guns for the Union Army. When Breeland's handsome Confederate counterpart, Philo Trace, appears unexpectedly at the end of dinner, Daniel admits that he's selling guns to Trace rather than Breeland because Trace asked first. Later, after Daniel turns up dead and Merrit runs off to America with Breeland, Monk and Hester follow, landing with Trace in the thick of the first battle of Bull Run. Monk brings Breeland back to London to stand trial for Daniel's murder, only to have doubts before the ship docks. Rich in period detail and ripe with an understanding of the agony of unrequited love, Perry's heated tale is marred by a subplot involving blackmail and pirates that never pays off. In addition, patches of overwriting will flag the villain to astute readers. 10-city author tour. (Oct.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved


Library Journal Review

The latest in Perry's Victorian mysteries featuring William and Hester Monk takes the reader from British drawing rooms and courtrooms to American Civil War battlefields and the docks and depths of the Thames River. Vividly describing all of these settings, Perry weaves an intricate tale of love, greed, slavery, and murder. William Monk, agent of enquiry, is employed to discover who is blackmailing respectable merchant and arms dealer Daniel Alberton. Monk soon finds himself investigating Alberton's murder, however, and looking for the murderer on the battlefield at Bull Run. Full of unexpected twists and revelations, this intriguing and satisfying mystery is one of Perry's best. All public libraries will want to purchase it to satisfy the author's many fans.DJean Langlais, St. Charles P.L., IL (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.


Excerpts

Excerpts

"We are invited to dine with Mr. and Mrs. Alberton," Hester said in reply to Monk's questioning gaze across the breakfast table. "They are friends of Callandra's. She was to go as well, but has been called to Scotland unexpectedly." "I suppose you would like to accept anyway," he deduced, watching her face. He usually read her emotions quickly, sometimes with startling accuracy, at others misunderstanding entirely. On this occasion he was correct. "Yes, I would. Callandra said they are charming and interesting and have a very beautiful home. Mrs. Alberton is half Italian, and apparently Mr. Alberton has travelled quite a lot as well." "Then I suppose we had better go. Short notice, isn't it?" he said less than graciously. It was short notice indeed, but Hester was not disposed to find unnecessary fault with something which promised to be interesting, and possibly even the beginning of a new friendship. She did not have many friends. The nature of her work as a nurse had meant that her friendships were frequently of a fleeting nature. She had not been involved with any gripping cause for quite some little time. Even Monk's cases, while financially rewarding, had over the last four months of spring and early summer been most uninteresting, and he had not sought her assistance, or in most of them her opinion. She did not mind that, robberies were tedious, largely motivated by greed, and she did not know the people concerned. "Good," she said with a smile, folding up the letter. "I shall write back immediately saying that we shall be delighted." His answering look was wry, only very slightly sarcastic. They arrived at the Alberton house in Tavistock Square just before half past seven. It was, as Callandra had said, handsome, although Hester would not have thought it worth remarking on. However she changed her mind as soon as they were in the hallway which was dominated by a curving staircase at the half turn of which was an enormous stained glass window with the evening sun behind it. It was truly beautiful, and Hester found herself staring at it when she should have been paying attention to the butler who had admitted them, and watching where she was going. The withdrawing room also was unusual. There was less furniture in it than was customary, and the colours were paler and warmer, giving an illusion of light even though in fact the long windows which overlooked the garden faced towards the eastern sky. The shadows were already lengthening, although it would not be dark yet until after ten o'clock at this time so shortly after midsummer. Hester's first impression of Judith Alberton was that she was an extraordinarily beautiful woman. She was taller than average, but with a slender neck and shoulders which made more apparent the lush curves of her figure, and lent it a delicacy it might otherwise not have possessed. Her face, when looked at more closely, was totally wrong for conventional fashion. Her nose was straight and quite prominent, her cheekbones very high, her mouth too large and her chin definitely short. Her eyes were slanted and of a golden autumn shade. The whole impression was both generous and passionate. The longer one looked at her the lovelier she seemed. Hester liked her immediately. "How do you do," Judith said warmly. "I am so pleased you have come. It was kind of you on so hasty an invitation. But Lady Callandra spoke of you with such affection I did not wish to wait." She smiled at Monk. Her eyes lit with a flare of interest as she regarded his dark face with its lean bones and broad-bridged nose, but it was Hester to whom she addressed her attention. "May I introduce my husband?" The man who came forward was pleasing rather than handsome, far more ordinary than she was, but his features were regular and there was both strength and charm in them. "How do you do, Mrs. Monk," he said with a smile, but when courtesy was met he turned immediately to Monk behind her, searching his countenance steadily for a moment before holding out his hand in welcome, and then turning aside so the rest of the company could be introduced. There were three other people in the room. One was a man in his mid forties, his dark hair thinning a little. Hester noticed first his wide smile and spontaneous handshake. He had a natural confidence, as if he were sure enough of himself and his beliefs he had no need to thrust them upon anyone else. He was happy to listen to others. It was a quality she could not help but like. His name was Robert Casbolt, and he was introduced not only as Alberton's business partner and friend since youth, but also Judith's cousin. The other man present was American. As one could hardly help being aware, that country had in the last few months slipped tragically into a state of civil war. There had not as yet been anything more serious than a few ugly skirmishes, but open violence seemed increasingly probable with every fresh bulletin that arrived across the Atlantic. War seemed more and more likely. "Mr. Breeland is from the Union," Alberton said courteously, but there was no warmth in his voice. Hester looked at Breeland as she acknowledged the introduction. He appeared to be in his early thirties, tall and very straight, with square shoulders and the upright stance of a soldier. His features were regular, his expression polite but severely controlled, as if he felt he must be constantly on guard against any slip or relaxation of awareness. The last person was the Albertons' daughter, Merrit. She was about sixteen, with all the charm, the passion and vulnerability of her years. She was fairer than her mother, and had not the beauty, but she had a similar strength of will in her face, and less ability to hide her emotions. She allowed herself to be introduced politely enough, but she did not make any attempt to pretend more than courtesy. The preliminary conversation was on matters as simple as the weather, the increase in traffic on the streets and the crowds drawn by a nearby exhibition. Hester wondered why Callandra had thought she and Monk might find these people congenial, but perhaps she was merely fond of them, and had discovered in them a kindness. Breeland and Merrit moved a little apart, talking earnestly. Monk, Casbolt and Judith Alberton discussed the latest play, and Hester fell into conversation with Daniel Alberton. "Lady Callandra told me you spent nearly two years out in the Crimea," he said with great interest. He smiled apologetically. "I am not going to ask you the usual questions about Miss Nightingale. You must find that tedious by now." "She was a very remarkable person," Hester said. "I could not criticise anyone for seeking to know more about her." His smile widened. "You must have said that so many times. You were prepared for it!" She found herself relaxing. He was unexpectedly pleasant to converse with; frankness was always so much easier than continued courtesy. "Yes, I admit I was. It is ..." "Unoriginal," he finished for her. "Yes." "Perhaps what I wanted to say was unoriginal also, but I shall say it anyway, because I do want to know." He frowned very slightly, drawing his brows together. His eyes were clear blue. "You must have exercised a great deal of courage out there, both physical and moral, especially when you were actually close to the battlefield. You must have made decisions which altered other peoples lives, perhaps saved them, or lost them." That was true. She remembered with a jolt just how desperate it had been. It was as remote from this quiet summer evening in an elegant London withdrawing room, where the shade of a gown mattered, the cut of a sleeve. War, disease, shattered bodies, the heat and flies, or the terrible cold, could all have been on another planet with no connection with this world at all except a common language, and yet no words that could ever explain one to the other. She nodded. "Do you not find it extraordinarily difficult to adjust from that life to this?" he asked, his voice was soft, but edged with a surprising intensity. How much had Callandra told Judith Alberton, or her husband? Would Hester embarrass her with the Albertons in future if she were to be honest? Probably not. Callandra had never been a woman to run from the truth. "Well I came back burning with determination to reform all our hospitals here at home," she said ruefully. "As you can see, I did not succeed, for several reasons. The chief among them was that no one would believe I had the faintest idea what I was talking about. Women don't understand medicine at all, and nurses in particular are for rolling bandages, sweeping and mopping floors, carrying coal and slops, and generally doing as they are told." She allowed her bitterness to show. "It did not take me long to be dismissed, and earn my way by caring for private patients." There was admiration in his eyes as well as laughter. "Was that not very hard for you?" he asked. "Very," she agreed. "But I met my husband shortly after I came home. We were . . . I was going to say friends, but that is not true. Adversaries in a common cause, would describe it far better. Did Lady Callandra tell you that he is a private agent of enquiry?" There was no surprise in his face, certainly nothing like alarm. In high society, gentlemen owned land or were in the army or politics. They did not work, in the sense of being employed. Trade was equally unacceptable. But whatever family background Judith Alberton came from, her husband showed no dismay that his guest should be little better than a policeman, an occupation fit only for the least desirable element. "Yes," he admitted readily. "She told me she found some of his adventures quite fascinating, but she did not give me any details. I presumed they might be confidential." "They are," she agreed. "I would not discuss them either, only to say that they have prevented me from missing any sense of excitement or decision that I felt in the Crimea. And for the most part my share in them has not required the physical privation or the personal danger of nursing in wartime." "And the horror, or the pity?" he asked quietly. "It has not sheltered me from those," she admitted. "Except for a matter of numbers. And I am not sure one feels any less for one person, if he or she is in desperate trouble, than one does for many." "Quite." It was Robert Casbolt who spoke. He came up just behind Alberton, putting a companionable hand on his shoulder and regarding Hester with interest. "There is just so much the emotions can take, and one gives all one has, I imagine? From what I have just overheard, you are a remarkable woman, Mrs. Monk. I am delighted Daniel thought to invite you and your husband to dine. You will enliven our usual conversation greatly, and I for one am looking forward to it." He lowered his voice conspiratorially. "No doubt we shall hear more of it over dinner--it is totally inescapable these days--but I have had more than sufficient of the war in America and its issues." Excerpted from Slaves of Obsession by Anne Perry All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.