The sun was rising slowly, splashing red light across the river. The drops thrown from Monk’s oars glowed momentarily in the air, like wine, or blood. On the other seat, a yard or so in front of him, Orme leaned forward and threw his weight against the drag of the current. They worked in perfect rhythm, used to each other now; it was the last week of November 1864, nearly two years since Monk had taken command of the Thames River Police at the Wapping Station.
That was a small victory for him. Orme had been part of the River Police all his adult life. For Monk it was a big adjustment after working first for the Metropolitan Police, and then for himself.
The peace of his satisfaction was shattered by a scream, which was piercing even above the creak of the oarlocks and the sound of the wash from a passing string of barges breaking on the shore. Monk and Orme both turned toward the north bank and Limehouse Pier, which was no more than twenty yards away.
The scream came again, shrill with terror, and suddenly a figure appeared, black against the shadowy outline of the sheds and warehouses on the embankment. It was someone in a long coat, waving their arms and stumbling around; it was impossible to tell whether it was a man or a woman.
With a glance over his shoulder at Monk, Orme dug his oars in again and swung the boat round toward the shore.
The low clouds were parting and the light became stronger; the figure materialized into a woman in a long skirt, standing on the pier, waving her arms and crying out to them, her words so jumbled in terror they were unintelligible.
The boat bumped at the steps and Orme tied it up.
Monk grasped the closest wooden beam and clambered out, going up the steps as fast as he could. When he got to the top he saw that the woman was now sobbing and putting her hands to her face as if to block out all possible vision.
Monk looked around. He could see no one else, nothing to cause such hysterical fear. Nor could he immediately see any evidence of a threat to the woman. The pier was empty except for her and Monk, and then Orme, coming up the steps.
Monk took her arm gently. “What is it?” he asked, his voice firm. “What’s wrong?”
She pulled away from him and swung round, jabbing her finger toward a heap of rubbish, which was slowly becoming more visible in the spreading morning light.
Monk walked over to it, his stomach clenching when he realized that what he had taken for torn canvas was actually the sodden skirt of a woman, her body so mutilated it was not instantly recognizable as human. There was no need to wonder if she was dead. She was twisted over, half on her back, her blue, sightless eyes turned up to the sky. Her hair was matted, and blood- soaked at the back. But it was the rest of her body that made his gorge rise and choked the breath in his throat. Her belly was ripped open, and her entrails were torn out and laid like pale, skinless snakes across her loins.
Monk heard Orme’s step behind him.
“Dear God!” Orme breathed out the words, not as a blasphemy but a cry for help, for what he saw not to be real.
Monk swallowed hard and grasped Orme’s shoulder for a moment. Then, stumbling a little on the rough boards of the pier, he went back to the woman, who was now standing trembling uncontrollably.
Copyright © 2012 by Anne Perry
Bestselling author Anne Perry brings back celebrated investigator William Monk for another excursion into the seamy alleyways of Victorian London. A Sunless Sea finds Monk and his associate, Orme, probing a horrific murder on the docks of the capital city.
London, 1864: The Opium Wars are over, and opium has won. Misuse and addiction run rampant, despite the efforts of reformers.
Soon after discredited medical researcher Dr. Joel Lambourn takes his own life, the body of his mistress, Zenia, is found on the docks. His widow’s alibi demolished, she becomes the prime suspect in Zenia’s murder. But Monk, superintendent of the Thames River Police, is far from convinced of her guilt, and the disappearance of the researcher’s report on opium abuse sends him and Orme in pursuit of a drug-fueled conspiracy that may include high-ranking members of Her Majesty’s government.
As defense attorney Oliver Rathbone struggles to keep the widow Lambourn from the gallows, Monk partners with the dogged Inspector Runcorn of the Metropolitan Police, searching for the weak link in the opium chain. Because powerful forces seek to squelch inquiries into the drug’s safety…and they will not hesitate to kill again.
Hardcover Book : 384 pages
Publisher: Bantam Dell Pub. Group ( August 28, 2012 )
Item #: 13-613048
Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 8.25 x 0.875inches
Product Weight: 14.0 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
Anne Perry's latest book is compelling, thought-provoking, and intricately plotted. Every page leads the reader in an unexpected direction and the ultimate conclusion, while not a surprise, nevertheless is up to Perry's amazingly high standards. She's a wonder with the Victorian era and it's often ugly side.