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A Sunless Sea: A William Monk Novel    by Anne Perry order for
Sunless Sea
by Anne Perry
Order:  USA  Can
Ballantine, 2013 (2012)
Hardcover, Softcover, CD, e-Book

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* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

A Sunless Sea follows Acceptable Loss as the eighteenth in Anne Perry's popular series starring River Police Commander William Monk and his strong-willed wife Hester, who are still adjusting to life with Scuff, the fiercely independent mudlark they adopted.

Their good friend, gifted barrister Oliver Rathbone, grieves over the end of his marriage after he failed to defend his wife Margaret's father in Acceptable Loss - she blames him for her father's loss of reputation and death, despite the latter's guilt.

Now, after focusing on pedophiles in the last few episodes, Anne Perry takes on abuses in the sale of opium, starting with British exploitation of Chinese addiction to the drug, and continuing to illuminate practices (in particular the lack of dosage regulation) resulting in countless deaths, especially in infants.

One cold December morning, Monk and his associate Orme come upon a horribly mutilated female corpse on Limehouse Pier. With time and difficulty they identify the woman as Zenia Gadney, and learn of her association with Dr. Lambourn, a well respected physician who researched the harm done by improper use of opium.

Dr. Lambourn is also dead, after taking opium and cutting his wrists, but his wife Dinah believes that he was murdered to stop his work. The official line is that the good doctor despaired over the failure of his work and the rejection of his report - and even his own sister supports that view.

The story takes an unusual turn when an unbalanced woman is reported to have been in the area around the time of Zenia Gadney's death. Monk arrests Dinah Lambourn for murder, but also asks Oliver to defend her, and the latter soon finds himself emotionally involved in a court case it seems will be impossible to win, even with Hester's able investigative assistance.

A Sunless Sea is one of the best episodes in this well written, thought provoking series. Before the end, to prevent a grave injustice, Oliver Rathbone must soil his own hands in a manner that will be sure to come back to haunt him. Perry fans will be anxious to find out what lies ahead for the popular barrister.

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