An exercise in how to give the same thought hundreds of permutations...
1864. London. A slightly bloated corpse is discovered on the shore of the Thames River. This is Monk’s territory. As head of the Thames Police, he’s responsible for investigating criminal activity – and from the bloody mess of the dead man’s head and the garrotte around his neck – the deceased did not peacefully go to a sweet rest. But then, Monk isn’t convinced that Mickey Parfitt was deserving of peace.
I must confess that Acceptable Loss was a disappointment. On the face of it, the plot looked set to be both emotive and historically interesting, but whilst the subject of child pornography and sexual abuse certainly delivered many a shudder; the story failed to capitalise on what could have been an incredibly poignant tale of murder, blackmail and political intrigue. Monk and his careworn wife, Hester, find themselves closely entangled in Parfitt’s murder once it becomes apparent that he was part of a lucrative racket feeding the nasty habits of the wealthy whose tastes run to unsavoury sexual acts with young boys. Clearly he had had a well-heeled backer, whom the Monks suspected to be none other than Sir Arthur Ballinger; the father-in-law of their long time friend, Oliver Rathbone. The problem for Monk was proving it and with the coincidental evidence pointing neatly at the troubled, young Rupert Cardfew; it seemed the villain would escape justice once again.
The problem for me was the handling of the narrative. With the guilt of Ballinger ascertained at the very beginning, the subsequent dissembling, introspection and inner conflict of the main characters was not only protracted beyond reason, but also terribly repetitive. And there was little chance of falling back onto the enjoyment of either the criminal aspects or a trundle down history lane with the focus being almost entirely consumed with Hester’s rehashing of her opinions about everyone and everything. Pushing to the end in the hope of some dramatic twist falls foul too. Instead, we meet a disconcertingly different Ballinger having histrionics before his execution and the brief concern over the whereabouts of photographic evidence used to blackmail his powerful victims. Perry seems to have lost her way with this novel – Monk deserves better. Let’s hope he gets it.
We interview C J Daugherty about Night School
- 10 January 2012