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!

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