The Face of a Stranger

 -by Anne Perry

 (William Monk, #1)

London. July 31, 1856. Enter, William Monk. At the outset of The Face of a Stranger, we know as much about Monk as he does: not much at all. A carriage accident has left him completely amnesic. Confused and dismayed at his current state, Monk gradually learns - through observation of his rooms, and carefully worded questions to others (without revealing his disadvantage) - that he is a police Inspector. Much to his chagrin, he comes to the realization that, while he is a brilliant detective, he is also callous, generally disliked, and infamously ambitious - willing to trample on others to advance his career. Others' reactions to Monk, paint a grim picture of his character - someone he does not even like, himself. While rather unlikely, it is fascinating to read the lead character's introspective thoughts and 'internal woolgatherings' as he comes to know the person he used to be, and is striving to change with every turn of the page.

Amidst all of this, Monk is sent back to work. He must piece himself together, while investigating a gruesome murder of a Crimean War hero, a member of the gentry. He ultimately succeeds in solving it with the help of his newly-assigned Sergeant, John Evans, who becomes his trusted friend, and Hester Latterly, a nurse who knew the murder victim in the Crimea.

I was impressed with how the story was constructed. While the investigation of the Grey mystery became cumbersome at times, overall the plot was very engrossing! Admittedly, I was a bit disappointed by who the culprit was, as I had suspected them early on, and hoped it was something a bit less predictable. However, the story was truly about Monk and his 'self-discovery' -- I enjoyed that aspect the most and it was really well done.

The Face of a Stranger was refreshingly different and a treat to read. What a clever way to involve the reader... by making the main character a mystery unto himself! I look forward to more in this series.

EDIT TO ADD (July 2013): I am current reading book number 11 of the Monk series. I am enjoying every single one!

Crocodile on the Sandbank

 -by Elizabeth Peters

 (Amelia Peabody #1)

What fun!

This enjoyable light read offers a playful romp through Egypt with a bit of mystery (albeit, predictable), romance, intrigue and humour thrown in for good measure. I'm looking forward to delving head-long into the rest of Peters' series - she writes with wit and a deft turn of phrase, but also bestows a certain amount depth to her characters.

Narrator and unlikely 'heroine', Amelia Peabody, is matter-of-fact, unflappable and very believable (I took to her in an instant); she resigned to the idea of becoming an 'old maid'. While in Rome, she rescues Evelyn, an English gentle-woman who has found herself on the losing end of a an imprudent relationship and in a compromising situation that jeopardizes her respectability. She soon becomes Peabody's companion and close friend, as the two head to Egypt to spend the winter months on the Nile - Peabody to escape the dullness of England's winter and Evelyn to escape a scandal. A chance encounter brings them into the acquaintance with the Emerson brothers, encamped at an ancient Egyptian archeological site. Strange occurrences begin to plague the dig, involving a run-about Mummy intent on frightening off the small party! New friendships are forged, and new enemies made, as the mystery at the archeological site begins to unravel.

Being the first of the series, this book "sets the scene", and is no doubt more of an introduction to the characters and their personas, as opposed to an elaborate storyline. (Emerson is quickly becoming a favourite!) It was certainly an enjoyable premiere!

Bring on the next!

Country Diary of an Edwardian Lady

-by Edith Holden

Country Diary was originally published in 1906. Is it any wonder that reading this book makes me feel like I'm stepping back in time? One flip of a page and I'm instantly in Edwardian accouterment, sitting in a beautiful field atop a quilt on a breezy summer day, with my pen and journal in hand.

Elegant and absolutely beautiful, this book is a visual banquet that I will continue to enjoy whenever I open its pages! Its amazingly detailed drawings and paintings of nature are coupled with the author's notes and poetry of the time.

It has encouraged me to dig out my own art journal now and then, even when I "think" I have nothing worthy to write about or draw. Sometimes it's the little things that mean the most, and the journey - not the destination - that counts.


-by Daphne du Maurier

416 pages (2001) Harper Paperbacks
originally published in 1938
ISBN 978-0452284142

MY RATING: 4.5/5

modern-day Jane Eyre

The house at the centre of Daphne du Maurier's novel Rebecca, opens with the famous lines: “Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again. It seemed to me I stood by the iron gate leading to the drive and for a while I could not enter, for the way was barred to me”. A fitting introduction to the spellbinding tale of intrigue, mystery and love.

At the outset of the novel Rebecca reflects on a dream she has had about Manderley estate, and as the story unfolds, she becomes the narrator of her story.

Simple, naive and young, Rebecca staying at a hotel with her employer, Mrs. Danvers, happens to meet the brooding handsome Maxim de Winter, a wealthy widower who is rumoured to have lost his first wife under mysterious circumstances. She ultimately becomes his second wife, and they moved to his estate at Manderley. As she settles into high society, she realizes how diffucult the adjustment is for her. Her relationship with Maxim becomes the object of rumours.

Mrs. Danvers, the mysterious and cruel housekeper.