The first book in the mystery series starring Inspector Monk set in the Victorian times.

Publication year: 1990
Format: Audio
Publisher: Audible Inc.
Narrator: Davina Porter
Running Time: 13 hours, 23 minutes

A man wakes up in a hospital but he has no idea who he is. He’s told that he had an accident and has been in the hospital for a while. He doesn’t remember anything about himself nor about his history. Then one of the detectives from his precinct come to visit him and tells him that he’s Inspector William Monk, a very good policeman.

Monk is released from the hospital and goes to his apartment and starts to go through his life. He finds out that he doesn’t really like himself: he seems to be a lonely man, devoted only to his job. The one one who writes to him is his sister and he doesn’t even return her letters. He’s given some weeks sick leave which he spends with his sister. However, his memory doesn’t return.

Then, he has to get back to work. He doesn’t tell anyone about his amnesia and just works as best he can. He takes over a high-profile case about brutally murdered Jocelyn Gray, who is a gentleman and a wounded Crimean War hero.

The story is set in the Victorian times and explores the differences between classes. During his case, Monk has to interview the victim’s family who are very condescending to him, to the extent that they tell Monk what and who he should investigate because, of course, the murderer has to be some insane lower class man. Monk has to also move among the poor and he’s appalled by the their conditions.

Monk’s amnesia is very selective: he has only lost memories about this adult life. Some of his childhood memories come back to him early on. He’s seem to be somewhat different person without his memories; he criticizes his own life and even his goals. Before, he seemed to want to elevate himself into the higher classes. While waiting for that, he puts his money into clothing and his time knowing about the nobility. Now, he finds that depressing. He also feels lonely and seeks out other people’s approval which he probably didn’t care for before. I find it a bit strange that his personality had changed that much.

The other point-of-view character is Hester Latterly who was a nurse in the Crimean War. She had to come home and take care of her relatives because her father killed himself and her mother died of grief a few weeks afterwards. However, Hester refused to believe that her father would have killed himself and asked Monk to look at the case. She’s a tough and independent woman, and she finds it hard to change back to a demure middle-class woman looking for a husband after her gruesome time in the war. Monk tries very hard not to be attracted to her.

The pace of the book is slow with Monk trying to gather information about his life and about his case, and with Hester trying to get her life back into order.

The cast of characters is pretty varied. Monk has a superior who loaths him and he’s assigned a younger detective as a partner. He has to interview both titled people and boys sweeping the streets. Hestia brings in the point-of-view of the women at the time.

I enjoyed Davina Porter’s narration. She has somewhat different voice for every character and Monk’s inner thoughts. She has a clear voice and is easy to listen to.

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