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The Shifting Tide (William Monk Series #14) [NOOK Book]

Overview

William Monk knows London’s streets like the back of his hand. But the river Thames and its teeming docks—where wharf rats and night plunderers ply their trades—is unknown territory. Only Monk’s dire need for work persuades him to accept an assignment from shipping magnate Clement Louvain, to investigate the theft of a cargo of African ivory from Louvain’s recently docked schooner, the Maude Idris. But why didn’t Louvain report the ivory theft directly to the River Police? Another mystery is the ...
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The Shifting Tide (William Monk Series #14)

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Overview

William Monk knows London’s streets like the back of his hand. But the river Thames and its teeming docks—where wharf rats and night plunderers ply their trades—is unknown territory. Only Monk’s dire need for work persuades him to accept an assignment from shipping magnate Clement Louvain, to investigate the theft of a cargo of African ivory from Louvain’s recently docked schooner, the Maude Idris. But why didn’t Louvain report the ivory theft directly to the River Police? Another mystery is the appearance of a desperately ill woman who Louvain claims is the discarded mistress of an old friend. Is she connected to the theft, or to something much darker? As Monk endeavors to solve these riddles, he can’t imagine the trap that will soon so fatefully ensnare him.
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Editorial Reviews

Marilyn Stasio
In scenes that could have come out of Dickens's Our Mutual Friend, Monk wanders the teeming streets and ventures into the perilous river traffic, at one point chatting up an old sailor who yearns for the days of an even more exciting era of privateering. As the sailor says, ''River's full o' tales,'' and Perry knows how to bring them to life.
The New York Times
Publishers Weekly
The strain of publishing two major novels a year continues to show in bestseller Perry's 14th historical to feature private inquiry agent William Monk and his wife, Hester, despite the fresh start for Monk, who has recovered from the amnesia that afflicted him in Death of a Stranger (2002). In the autumn of 1873, because he needs the money, Monk agrees to recover valuable cargo stolen from a ship waiting to be unloaded at an East End London dock for the ship's owner, Clement Louvain, with the proviso that Louvain will also prosecute the thieves for murdering the ship's watchman. Monk enlists the aid of a young Cockney orphan, Scuff, who doubts Monk's ability to investigate a Docklands crime: "Yer in't got the wits fer it, nor the stomach neither. Yer stick to wot yer can do-wotever that is." Meanwhile, Hester, who receives no pay for the clinic she runs for streetwalkers, must deal with an unexpected death that she suspects may be murder. Unfortunately, the author too often tells rather than shows. The reader waits impatiently for the "ruthless" Monk to say or do something that suggests that quality. Still, with its focus on the lower classes and the Thames, the plot will resonate with fans of Dickens's riparian novel, Our Mutual Friend. And, as always, Perry uses her characters and story to comment on ethical issues that remain as relevant today as they were in Victorian times. Expect another bestseller. Agent, Donald Maass. (On sale Apr. 27) FYI: Perry has recently edited a mystery anthology with a Charles Dickens theme, Death by Dickens (Forecasts, Feb. 23). Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
William Monk agrees to look into the theft of some African ivory from a ship docked in London. But why wasn't the theft reported to the River Police? Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
From the Publisher
“Engrossing . . . The mysterious and dangerous waterfront world of London’s ‘longest street,’ the Thames, comes to life.”—South Florida Sun-Sentinel

“With her visionary sensibility, Anne Perry is the master of the ‘you are there’ school of hist-myst storytelling. . . . [Here are] scenes that could have come out of Dickens’s Our Mutual Friend.”—The New York Times Book Review

“As always, Perry uses her characters and story to comment on ethical issues that remain as relevant today as they were in Victorian times.”—Publishers Weekly

“No one writes more elegantly than Perry, nor better conjures up the rich and colorful tapestry of London in the Victorian era.”—The Plain Dealer
 
“Among the best [of the Monk books] . . . This one has all Perry’s trademark atmosphere.”—The Globe and Mail

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780345478306
  • Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 4/27/2004
  • Series: William Monk Series , #14
  • Sold by: Random House
  • Format: eBook
  • Sales rank: 67,820
  • File size: 406 KB

Meet the Author

Anne Perry
Among Anne Perry’s other novels featuring investigator William Monk are Death of a Stranger, Funeral in Blue, Slaves of Obsession, and The Twisted Root. She also writes the popular novels featuring Thomas and Charlotte Pitt, including Seven Dials, Southampton Row, The Whitechapel Conspiracy, and Half Moon Street. In addition, she is also the author of a new series set during World War One that began with No Graves as Yet. Her short story “Heroes” won an Edgar Award. Anne Perry lives in Scotland. Visit her Web site at www.anneperry.net.


From the Hardcover edition.

Biography

Born in London in October 1938, Anne Perry was plagued with health problems as a young child. So severe were her illnesses that at age eight she was sent to the Bahamas to live with family friends in the hopes that the warmer climate would improve her health. She returned to her family as a young teenager, but sickness and frequent moves had interrupted her formal education to the extent that she was finally forced to leave school altogether. With the encouragement of her supportive parents, she was able to "fill in the gaps" with voracious reading, and her lack of formal schooling has never held her back.

Although Perry held down many jobs—working at various times as a retail clerk, stewardess, limousine dispatcher, and insurance underwriter—the only thing she ever seriously wanted to do in life was to write. (In her '20s, she started putting together the first draft of Tathea, a fantasy that would not see print until 1999.) At the suggestion of her stepfather, she began writing mysteries set in Victorian London; and in 1979, one of her manuscripts was accepted for publication. The book was The Cater Street Hangman, an ingenious crime novel that introduced a clever, extremely untidy police inspector named Thomas Pitt. In this way an intriguing mystery series was born…along with a successful writing career.

In addition to the Thomas and Charlotte Pitt novels, Perry crafts darker, more layered Victorian mysteries around the character of London police detective William Monk, whose memory has been impaired by a coach accident. (Monk debuted in 1990's The Face of a Stranger.) She also writes historical novels set during the First World War (No Graves as Yet, Shoulder the Sky, etc.) and holiday-themed mysteries (A Christmas Journey, A Christmas Secret, etc), and her short stories have been included in several anthologies.

Good To Know

Some fun and fascinating outtakes from our interview with Anne Perry:

The first time I made any money telling a story I was four and a half years old—golden hair, blue eyes, a pink smocked dress, and neat little socks and shoes. I walked home from school (it was safe then) with my lunchtime sixpence unspent. A large boy, perhaps 12 or 13, stopped me. He was carrying a stick and threatened to hit me if I didn't give him my sixpence. I told him a long, sad story about how poor we were—no food at home, not even enough money for shoes! He gave me his half crown—five times sixpence! It's appalling! I didn't think of it as lying, just escaping with my sixpence. How on earth he could have believed me I have no idea. Perhaps that is the knack of a good story—let your imagination go wild, pile on the emotions—believe it yourself, evidence to the contrary be damned. I am not really proud of that particular example!

I used to live next door to people who had a tame dove. They had rescued it when it broke its wing. The wing healed, but it never learned to fly again. I used to walk a mile or so around the village with the dove. Its little legs were only an inch or two long, so it got tired, then it would ride on my head. Naturally I talked to it. It was a very nice bird. I got some funny looks. Strangers even asked me if I knew there was a bird on my head! Who the heck did they think I was talking to? Of course I knew there was a bird on my head. I'm not stupid—just a writer, and entitled to be a little different. I'm also English, so that gives me a second excuse!

On the other hand I'm not totally scatty. I like maths, and I used to love quadratic equations. One of the most exciting things that happened to me was when someone explained non-Euclidean geometry to me, and I suddenly saw the infinite possibilities in lateral thinking! How could I have been so blind before?

Here are some things I like—and one thing I don't:

  • I love wild places, beech trees, bluebell woods, light on water—whether the light is sunlight, moonlight, or lamplight; and whether the water is ocean, rain, snow, river, mist, or even a puddle.

  • I love the setting sun in autumn over the cornstooks.

  • I love to eat raspberries, pink grapefruit, crusty bread dipped in olive oil.

  • I love gardens where you seem to walk from "room to room," with rambling roses and vines climbing into the trees and sudden vistas when you turn corners.

  • I love white swans and the wild geese flying overhead.

  • I dislike rigidity, prejudice, ill-temper, and perhaps above all, self-righteousness.

  • I love laughter, mercy, courage, hope. I think that probably makes me pretty much like most people. But that isn't bad.
  • Read More Show Less
      1. Also Known As:
        Juliet Hulme
      2. Hometown:
        Portmahomack, Ross-shire, U.K
      1. Date of Birth:
        October 28, 1938
      2. Place of Birth:
        Blackheath, London England

    Read an Excerpt

    ONE

    The murder doesn’t matter,” Louvain said abruptly, leaning a little over his desk towards Monk.

    The two men were standing in the big office next to windows that faced the Pool of London with its forest of masts swaying on the tide against the ragged autumn sky. There were clippers and schooners from every seafaring nation on earth, barges from up and down the river, local pleasure boats, as well as tugs, ferries, and tenders.

    “I have to have the ivory!” Louvain gritted the words between his teeth. “I’ve no time to wait for the police.”

    Monk stared at him, trying to frame an answer. He needed this job, or he would not have come down to the Louvain Shipping Company offices prepared to undertake a task so far outside his usual area of skill. He was a brilliant detective in the city; he had proved it time and time again, both in the police force and later as a private agent of enquiry. He knew the mansions of the wealthy and the back streets of the poor. He knew the petty thieves and informers, the dealers in stolen goods and the brothel-keepers, the forgers and many of the general ruffians for hire. But the river, the “longest street in London,” with its shifting tides, its constant movement of ships, and men who spoke scores of different languages, was strange territory to him. The question beat in his mind, insistent as a pulse: Why had Clement Louvain sent for him rather than someone familiar with the docks and the water? The River Police themselves were older than Peel’s city police; in fact, they had existed for nearly three quarters of a century—since 1798. It was feasible that the River Police were too busy to give Louvain’s ivory the attention he wanted, but was that really his reason for calling in Monk?

    “The murder is part of the theft,” Monk replied at last. “If we knew who killed Hodge, we’d know who took the ivory, and if we knew when, we might be a lot closer to finding it.”

    Louvain’s face tightened. He was a wind-burned, slender-hipped man in his early forties, but hard-muscled like the sailors he hired to work his ships to the East African coast and back, with ivory, timber, spices, and skins. His light brown hair was thick and sprang up from his forehead. His features were broad and blunt.

    “On the river at night, time makes no difference,” he said curtly. “There are light-horsemen, heavy-horsemen, night plunderers up and down all the time. Nobody’s going to inform on anyone else, least of all to the River Police. That’s why I need my own man, one with the skills I’m told you have.” His eyes swept over Monk, seeing a man reputed to have the same ruthlessness as himself, an inch or two taller, darker, with high cheekbones and a lean, powerful face. “I need that ivory back,” Louvain repeated. “It’s due for delivery, and the money is owed. Don’t look for the murderer to find the thief. That might work on shore. On the river you find the thief, and that will lead you to the murderer.”

    Monk would have dearly liked to decline the case. It would have been easy enough; his lack of knowledge alone would have provided grounds for it. In fact, it was increasingly difficult to see why Louvain had sent for him rather than one of the many men who must at least know the river and the docks. There was always someone who would undertake a private commission—for a fee.

    But Monk could not afford to point that out. He faced the bitter fact that he must make himself obliging to Louvain, and convince him, against the truth, that it was well within his power to find the ivory and return it to him in less time, and with greater discretion, than the River Police could or would do.

    Necessity drove him, the spate of recent trivial cases which paid too little. He dared not go into debt, and since Hester had given her time to the clinic in Portpool Lane, which was wholly charitable, she added nothing to their financial situation. But a man should not expect his wife to keep herself. She asked little enough—no luxury, no vanity, only to be able to do the work she loved. Monk would have served any man to give her that. He resented Louvain because he had the power to cause him acute discomfort, but far more than that he was troubled that Louvain showed more concern about catching a thief who had robbed him of goods than a murderer who had taken Hodge’s life.

    “And if we do catch him,” he said aloud, “and Hodge is buried, what evidence do we have? We will have concealed his crime for him.”

    Louvain pursed his lips. “I can’t afford to have the theft known. It would ruin me. Would it serve if I swear a testimony as to exactly where I found the body, and how and when? The doctor can swear to his in- juries, and you yourself can look, too. I’ll sign the document and you can have it.”

    “How will you explain concealing the crime from the police?” Monk asked.

    “I’ll hand them the murderer, with proof,” Louvain answered. “What more could they want?”

    “And if I don’t catch him?”

    Louvain looked at him with a wry, delicately twisted smile. “You will,” he said simply.

    Monk could not afford to argue. Morally, it set ill with him, but in practical terms Louvain was right. He must succeed; but if he did not, then the River Police’s chances were even less.

    “Tell me as much as you know,” he said.

    Louvain sat down at last, easing himself into the padded round-backed chair and indicating that Monk should sit also. He fixed his gaze on Monk’s face.

    “The Maude Idris put out from Zanzibar fully loaded with ebony, spices, and fourteen first-grade tusks of ivory, bound ’round the Cape of Good Hope and home. She’s a four-masted schooner with a nine-man crew: captain, mate, bosun, cook, cabin boy, and four able seamen, one per mast. That’s standard for her tonnage.” He was still watching Monk’s face. “She made fair weather most of the way, calling in for supplies and fresh water up the west coast of Africa. She reached Biscay five days ago, Spithead the day before yesterday, and tacked the last few miles upriver with the wind behind her. Dropped anchor just east of the Pool yesterday, October twentieth.”

    Monk was listening intently, but the account held nothing useful to him. He was certain Louvain knew that; nevertheless they both continued to play out the charade.

    “Crew was paid off,” Louvain went on. “As is usual. Been away a long time, close to half a year, one way and another. I left the bosun and three able seamen on board to keep things safe. One of them is the dead man, Hodge.” A flicker passed across his face. It could have been any emotion at all: anger, sorrow, even guilt.

    “Four out of the nine stayed?” Monk confirmed it.

    As if reading his thoughts, Louvain pursed his lips. “I know the river’s dangerous, especially for a ship newly come in. All the watermen will know the cargo’s still on it. Not much on the river is secret for long, but any fool could work that out. You don’t come up this far if you’re empty. You’re loading or unloading. I thought four men, armed, would be enough. I was wrong.” His face was filled with emotion, but which emotion was unreadable.

    “How were they armed?” Monk asked.

    “Pistols and cutlasses,” Louvain replied.

    Monk frowned. “Those are close-quarter weapons. Is that all you carry?”

    Louvain’s eyes widened almost imperceptibly. “There are four cannons on deck,” he replied guardedly. “But that’s in case of piracy at sea. You can’t fire that sort of thing on the river!” A slight flare of amusement crossed his face and vanished. “They only wanted the ivory, not the whole damn ship!”

    “Was anyone else injured apart from Hodge?” Monk concealed his annoyance with an effort. It was not Louvain’s fault that he was obliged to work out of his depth.

    “No,” Louvain said. “River thieves know how to come alongside and board in silence. Hodge was the only one they encountered, and they killed him without arousing anyone else.”

    Monk tried to imagine the scene: the cramped spaces in the bowels of the ship, the floor shifting and tilting with the tide, the creaking of the ship’s timbers. And then would come the sudden knowledge that there were footsteps, then the terror, the violence, and finally the crippling pain as they struck.

    “Who found him?” he said quietly. “And when?”

    Louvain’s face was heavy, his mouth drawn tight. “The man who came to relieve him at eight o’clock.”

    “Before or after he saw the ivory was missing?”

    Louvain hesitated only a second. It was barely discernible, and Monk wondered if he had imagined it. “After.”

    If he had said before, Monk would not have believed him. In self-preservation the man would have wanted to know what he was dealing with before he told Louvain anything. And unless he were a complete fool, he would have thought first to make sure the killer was not still on board. If he could have said he had captured him, and kept the ivory, he would have had a very different story to tell. Unless, of course, he already knew all about it and was party to it?

    “Where were you when you got the message?”

    Louvain looked at him stonily. “Here. It was nearly half past eight by then.”

    “How long had you been here?”

    “Since seven.”

    “Would he know that?” He watched Louvain’s face closely. One of the ways he could judge the men left on the ship was by Louvain’s trust in them. A man in Louvain’s position could not afford to forgive even error, let alone any kind of disloyalty.

    “Yes,” Louvain replied, a flicker of amusement in his eyes. “Any seaman would expect it. That doesn’t tell you what you think it does.”

    Monk felt the heat burn up inside him. He was clawing after answers, not grasping as he usually did. This was not the right pace at which to play games of wits with Louvain. He must be either blunter or a great deal more subtle.

    “All shipowners are in their offices at that hour?” he concluded aloud.

    Louvain relaxed a little. “Yes. He came here and told me Hodge had been killed and the ivory stolen. I went with him immediately—” He stopped as Monk stood up.

    “Can you retrace your steps, and I’ll come with you?” Monk requested.

    Louvain rose smoothly. “Of course.” He said nothing else as he led Monk across the worn carpet to the heavy door, opened it and then locked it behind them, putting the key in the inside pocket of his waistcoat. As he took a heavier jacket from a coat stand, he glanced at Monk’s attire, as if to consider its adequacy, and decided it would suffice.

    Monk was proud of his clothes. Even in his most financially restricted times, he had dressed well. He had a natural elegance, and pride dictated that the tailor’s bill had come before the butcher’s. But that had been when he was single. Now he might have to reverse that order, and it already weighed heavily with him. It was a kind of defeat. However, he had realized that a man involved in shipping, as Louvain was, might well have business that required them both to go on the river, so he had come with that in mind. His boots were heavy and well soled; his overcoat was easy to move in and would cut the wind.

    He followed Louvain down the stairs and across the outer office, where clerks were bent over ledgers or sitting on high stools with quills in hand. The odors of ink and dust were in the air, and there was an acrid sting of smoke as he passed the iron heating stove just as someone opened it to put more coke in the top.

    Outside in the roadway towards the dock, the raw-edged wind struck them immediately, making the skin smart, whipping the hair back, catching in the throat the taste of salt on the incoming tide. It was heavy with smells of fish, tar, and the sour, overbearing effluent of mud and sewage from above the waterline beyond the wharves.

    The water slurped against the pier stakes in endless movement, rhythm broken now and then by the wash of barges laden so they sank deep. They moved slowly upriver towards London Bridge and beyond. The mewing of gulls was shrill, yet it was a sound that brought back echoes of meaning for Monk, flashes of his life in Northumberland as a boy. A carriage accident seven years before, in 1856, had robbed him of most of those many-colored fragments that build the past and form the pictures of who we are. By deduction he had pieced much of it together, and now and again windows opened suddenly and showed him whole landscapes for a moment. The cry of gulls was one of those.

    Louvain was crossing the cobbles down to the wharf and striding along without looking right or left. The docks, with their vast warehouses, cranes and derricks, were all familiar to him. He was used to seeing the laborers and watermen and the small craft coming and going.

    Monk followed Louvain to the end of the wharf, where the dark water swirled and slapped under the shadows, its surface spotted with scum and drifting refuse. On the far bank there was a stretch of mud below the tide line, and three children were wading in it, sunk halfway up to their knees, bent over, searching with busy, skilled hands for whatever they could find. A snatch of memory told Monk it was almost certainly for coal off the barges, fallen by chance, or deliberately pushed a piece at a time, precisely in order to be picked up by the mudlarks.

    Louvain waved his arm and shouted across the water. Within moments a light boat, twelve or fourteen feet long, drew up to the steps with a single man aboard at the oars. His face was weather-beaten to the color of old wood, his gray beard little more than bristle, and his hat, jammed down over his ears, hid whatever hair he might have had. He gave a brief, half salute of recognition and waited for Louvain’s orders.

    “Take us out to the Maude Idris,” Louvain told him, stepping easily down into the boat, adjusting his weight to keep his balance as it tipped and jiggled. He offered no assistance to Monk behind him, either assuming he was accustomed to boats or uninterested in whether he made a fool of himself or not.

    A moment of fear rose in Monk, and embarrassment in case he did it clumsily. He stiffened, and then physical instinct told him that was wrong, and he dropped down loosely, bending his knees and adjusting with a grace that surprised both of them.

    The waterman wove between the barges with practiced skill, skirting around a three-masted schooner, its canvas lashed, timbers stained and peeling from long days of tropical sun and salt wind. Monk glanced down and saw the crusting of barnacles below the waterline. The river was too murky for him to see more than a foot or so below the surface.

    He looked up quickly as they passed under the shadow of a much larger ship and caught his breath with a sudden thrill as the sheer beauty of it gripped him. It towered into the air, three tremendous masts with yardarms eighty or ninety feet long and dark against the gray clouds, sails furled, rigging in fine lines like an etching on the sky. It was one of the great clippers that sailed around the world, probably racing from China to London with tea, silk, and spices of the Far East. First one to unload won the stupendous prices, second got only what was left. His imagination teemed with visions of roaring winds and seas, worlds of sky, billowing canvas, spars thrashing in a wild dance of the elements. And there would be calmer seas, flaming sunsets, clear water like glass teeming with creatures of myriad shapes, and windless days when time and space stretched into eternity.

    Monk jerked himself back to the present and the loud, busy river, the cold spray off the water whipping his face. Ahead of them was a four-masted schooner lying at anchor, rolling slightly on the wake from a string of barges. She was wide beamed and quite deep of draft, an oceangoing carrier of heavy cargo, swift under full sail, easy to maneuver, and this close, the gun ports on the foredeck were plain to see. She would be neither caught nor captured easily.

    Yet here in her home port she was a sitting target for two or three men creeping up over the black water by night, swarming up the sides to the deck and taking an inattentive guard by surprise.

    From the Hardcover edition.

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    Table of Contents

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    First Chapter

    ONE

    The murder doesn't matter," Louvain said abruptly, leaning a little over his desk towards Monk.

    The two men were standing in the big office next to windows that faced the Pool of London with its forest of masts swaying on the tide against the ragged autumn sky. There were clippers and schooners from every seafaring nation on earth, barges from up and down the river, local pleasure boats, as well as tugs, ferries, and tenders.

    "I have to have the ivory!" Louvain gritted the words between his teeth. "I've no time to wait for the police."

    Monk stared at him, trying to frame an answer. He needed this job, or he would not have come down to the Louvain Shipping Company offices prepared to undertake a task so far outside his usual area of skill. He was a brilliant detective in the city; he had proved it time and time again, both in the police force and later as a private agent of enquiry. He knew the mansions of the wealthy and the back streets of the poor. He knew the petty thieves and informers, the dealers in stolen goods and the brothel-keepers, the forgers and many of the general ruffians for hire. But the river, the "longest street in London," with its shifting tides, its constant movement of ships, and men who spoke scores of different languages, was strange territory to him. The question beat in his mind, insistent as a pulse: Why had Clement Louvain sent for him rather than someone familiar with the docks and the water? The River Police themselves were older than Peel's city police; in fact, they had existed for nearly three quarters of a century—since 1798. It was feasible that the River Police were too busy to give Louvain's ivorythe attention he wanted, but was that really his reason for calling in Monk?

    "The murder is part of the theft," Monk replied at last. "If we knew who killed Hodge, we'd know who took the ivory, and if we knew when, we might be a lot closer to finding it."

    Louvain's face tightened. He was a wind-burned, slender-hipped man in his early forties, but hard-muscled like the sailors he hired to work his ships to the East African coast and back, with ivory, timber, spices, and skins. His light brown hair was thick and sprang up from his forehead. His features were broad and blunt.

    "On the river at night, time makes no difference," he said curtly. "There are light-horsemen, heavy-horsemen, night plunderers up and down all the time. Nobody's going to inform on anyone else, least of all to the River Police. That's why I need my own man, one with the skills I'm told you have." His eyes swept over Monk, seeing a man reputed to have the same ruthlessness as himself, an inch or two taller, darker, with high cheekbones and a lean, powerful face. "I need that ivory back," Louvain repeated. "It's due for delivery, and the money is owed. Don't look for the murderer to find the thief. That might work on shore. On the river you find the thief, and that will lead you to the murderer."

    Monk would have dearly liked to decline the case. It would have been easy enough; his lack of knowledge alone would have provided grounds for it. In fact, it was increasingly difficult to see why Louvain had sent for him rather than one of the many men who must at least know the river and the docks. There was always someone who would undertake a private commission—for a fee.

    But Monk could not afford to point that out. He faced the bitter fact that he must make himself obliging to Louvain, and convince him, against the truth, that it was well within his power to find the ivory and return it to him in less time, and with greater discretion, than the River Police could or would do.

    Necessity drove him, the spate of recent trivial cases which paid too little. He dared not go into debt, and since Hester had given her time to the clinic in Portpool Lane, which was wholly charitable, she added nothing to their financial situation. But a man should not expect his wife to keep herself. She asked little enough—no luxury, no vanity, only to be able to do the work she loved. Monk would have served any man to give her that. He resented Louvain because he had the power to cause him acute discomfort, but far more than that he was troubled that Louvain showed more concern about catching a thief who had robbed him of goods than a murderer who had taken Hodge's life.

    "And if we do catch him," he said aloud, "and Hodge is buried, what evidence do we have? We will have concealed his crime for him."

    Louvain pursed his lips. "I can't afford to have the theft known. It would ruin me. Would it serve if I swear a testimony as to exactly where I found the body, and how and when? The doctor can swear to his in- juries, and you yourself can look, too. I'll sign the document and you can have it."

    "How will you explain concealing the crime from the police?" Monk asked.

    "I'll hand them the murderer, with proof," Louvain answered. "What more could they want?"

    "And if I don't catch him?"

    Louvain looked at him with a wry, delicately twisted smile. "You will," he said simply.

    Monk could not afford to argue. Morally, it set ill with him, but in practical terms Louvain was right. He must succeed; but if he did not, then the River Police's chances were even less.

    "Tell me as much as you know," he said.

    Louvain sat down at last, easing himself into the padded round-backed chair and indicating that Monk should sit also. He fixed his gaze on Monk's face.

    "The Maude Idris put out from Zanzibar fully loaded with ebony, spices, and fourteen first-grade tusks of ivory, bound 'round the Cape of Good Hope and home. She's a four-masted schooner with a nine-man crew: captain, mate, bosun, cook, cabin boy, and four able seamen, one per mast. That's standard for her tonnage." He was still watching Monk's face. "She made fair weather most of the way, calling in for supplies and fresh water up the west coast of Africa. She reached Biscay five days ago, Spithead the day before yesterday, and tacked the last few miles upriver with the wind behind her. Dropped anchor just east of the Pool yesterday, October twentieth."

    Monk was listening intently, but the account held nothing useful to him. He was certain Louvain knew that; nevertheless they both continued to play out the charade.

    "Crew was paid off," Louvain went on. "As is usual. Been away a long time, close to half a year, one way and another. I left the bosun and three able seamen on board to keep things safe. One of them is the dead man, Hodge." A flicker passed across his face. It could have been any emotion at all: anger, sorrow, even guilt.

    "Four out of the nine stayed?" Monk confirmed it.

    As if reading his thoughts, Louvain pursed his lips. "I know the river's dangerous, especially for a ship newly come in. All the watermen will know the cargo's still on it. Not much on the river is secret for long, but any fool could work that out. You don't come up this far if you're empty. You're loading or unloading. I thought four men, armed, would be enough. I was wrong." His face was filled with emotion, but which emotion was unreadable.

    "How were they armed?" Monk asked.

    "Pistols and cutlasses," Louvain replied.

    Monk frowned. "Those are close-quarter weapons. Is that all you carry?"

    Louvain's eyes widened almost imperceptibly. "There are four cannons on deck," he replied guardedly. "But that's in case of piracy at sea. You can't fire that sort of thing on the river!" A slight flare of amusement crossed his face and vanished. "They only wanted the ivory, not the whole damn ship!"

    "Was anyone else injured apart from Hodge?" Monk concealed his annoyance with an effort. It was not Louvain's fault that he was obliged to work out of his depth.

    "No," Louvain said. "River thieves know how to come alongside and board in silence. Hodge was the only one they encountered, and they killed him without arousing anyone else."

    Monk tried to imagine the scene: the cramped spaces in the bowels of the ship, the floor shifting and tilting with the tide, the creaking of the ship's timbers. And then would come the sudden knowledge that there were footsteps, then the terror, the violence, and finally the crippling pain as they struck.

    "Who found him?" he said quietly. "And when?"

    Louvain's face was heavy, his mouth drawn tight. "The man who came to relieve him at eight o'clock."

    "Before or after he saw the ivory was missing?"

    Louvain hesitated only a second. It was barely discernible, and Monk wondered if he had imagined it. "After."

    If he had said before, Monk would not have believed him. In self-preservation the man would have wanted to know what he was dealing with before he told Louvain anything. And unless he were a complete fool, he would have thought first to make sure the killer was not still on board. If he could have said he had captured him, and kept the ivory, he would have had a very different story to tell. Unless, of course, he already knew all about it and was party to it?

    "Where were you when you got the message?"

    Louvain looked at him stonily. "Here. It was nearly half past eight by then."

    "How long had you been here?"

    "Since seven."

    "Would he know that?" He watched Louvain's face closely. One of the ways he could judge the men left on the ship was by Louvain's trust in them. A man in Louvain's position could not afford to forgive even error, let alone any kind of disloyalty.

    "Yes," Louvain replied, a flicker of amusement in his eyes. "Any seaman would expect it. That doesn't tell you what you think it does."

    Monk felt the heat burn up inside him. He was clawing after answers, not grasping as he usually did. This was not the right pace at which to play games of wits with Louvain. He must be either blunter or a great deal more subtle.

    "All shipowners are in their offices at that hour?" he concluded aloud.

    Louvain relaxed a little. "Yes. He came here and told me Hodge had been killed and the ivory stolen. I went with him immediately—" He stopped as Monk stood up.

    "Can you retrace your steps, and I'll come with you?" Monk requested.

    Louvain rose smoothly. "Of course." He said nothing else as he led Monk across the worn carpet to the heavy door, opened it and then locked it behind them, putting the key in the inside pocket of his waistcoat. As he took a heavier jacket from a coat stand, he glanced at Monk's attire, as if to consider its adequacy, and decided it would suffice.

    Monk was proud of his clothes. Even in his most financially restricted times, he had dressed well. He had a natural elegance, and pride dictated that the tailor's bill had come before the butcher's. But that had been when he was single. Now he might have to reverse that order, and it already weighed heavily with him. It was a kind of defeat. However, he had realized that a man involved in shipping, as Louvain was, might well have business that required them both to go on the river, so he had come with that in mind. His boots were heavy and well soled; his overcoat was easy to move in and would cut the wind.

    He followed Louvain down the stairs and across the outer office, where clerks were bent over ledgers or sitting on high stools with quills in hand. The odors of ink and dust were in the air, and there was an acrid sting of smoke as he passed the iron heating stove just as someone opened it to put more coke in the top.

    Outside in the roadway towards the dock, the raw-edged wind struck them immediately, making the skin smart, whipping the hair back, catching in the throat the taste of salt on the incoming tide. It was heavy with smells of fish, tar, and the sour, overbearing effluent of mud and sewage from above the waterline beyond the wharves.

    The water slurped against the pier stakes in endless movement, rhythm broken now and then by the wash of barges laden so they sank deep. They moved slowly upriver towards London Bridge and beyond. The mewing of gulls was shrill, yet it was a sound that brought back echoes of meaning for Monk, flashes of his life in Northumberland as a boy. A carriage accident seven years before, in 1856, had robbed him of most of those many-colored fragments that build the past and form the pictures of who we are. By deduction he had pieced much of it together, and now and again windows opened suddenly and showed him whole landscapes for a moment. The cry of gulls was one of those.

    Louvain was crossing the cobbles down to the wharf and striding along without looking right or left. The docks, with their vast warehouses, cranes and derricks, were all familiar to him. He was used to seeing the laborers and watermen and the small craft coming and going.

    Monk followed Louvain to the end of the wharf, where the dark water swirled and slapped under the shadows, its surface spotted with scum and drifting refuse. On the far bank there was a stretch of mud below the tide line, and three children were wading in it, sunk halfway up to their knees, bent over, searching with busy, skilled hands for whatever they could find. A snatch of memory told Monk it was almost certainly for coal off the barges, fallen by chance, or deliberately pushed a piece at a time, precisely in order to be picked up by the mudlarks.

    Louvain waved his arm and shouted across the water. Within moments a light boat, twelve or fourteen feet long, drew up to the steps with a single man aboard at the oars. His face was weather-beaten to the color of old wood, his gray beard little more than bristle, and his hat, jammed down over his ears, hid whatever hair he might have had. He gave a brief, half salute of recognition and waited for Louvain's orders.

    "Take us out to the Maude Idris," Louvain told him, stepping easily down into the boat, adjusting his weight to keep his balance as it tipped and jiggled. He offered no assistance to Monk behind him, either assuming he was accustomed to boats or uninterested in whether he made a fool of himself or not.

    A moment of fear rose in Monk, and embarrassment in case he did it clumsily. He stiffened, and then physical instinct told him that was wrong, and he dropped down loosely, bending his knees and adjusting with a grace that surprised both of them.

    The waterman wove between the barges with practiced skill, skirting around a three-masted schooner, its canvas lashed, timbers stained and peeling from long days of tropical sun and salt wind. Monk glanced down and saw the crusting of barnacles below the waterline. The river was too murky for him to see more than a foot or so below the surface.

    He looked up quickly as they passed under the shadow of a much larger ship and caught his breath with a sudden thrill as the sheer beauty of it gripped him. It towered into the air, three tremendous masts with yardarms eighty or ninety feet long and dark against the gray clouds, sails furled, rigging in fine lines like an etching on the sky. It was one of the great clippers that sailed around the world, probably racing from China to London with tea, silk, and spices of the Far East. First one to unload won the stupendous prices, second got only what was left. His imagination teemed with visions of roaring winds and seas, worlds of sky, billowing canvas, spars thrashing in a wild dance of the elements. And there would be calmer seas, flaming sunsets, clear water like glass teeming with creatures of myriad shapes, and windless days when time and space stretched into eternity.

    Monk jerked himself back to the present and the loud, busy river, the cold spray off the water whipping his face. Ahead of them was a four-masted schooner lying at anchor, rolling slightly on the wake from a string of barges. She was wide beamed and quite deep of draft, an oceangoing carrier of heavy cargo, swift under full sail, easy to maneuver, and this close, the gun ports on the foredeck were plain to see. She would be neither caught nor captured easily.

    Yet here in her home port she was a sitting target for two or three men creeping up over the black water by night, swarming up the sides to the deck and taking an inattentive guard by surprise.
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    Sort by: Showing all of 8 Customer Reviews
    • Anonymous

      Posted March 9, 2004

      Great historical mystery

      It is 1863 in Victorian London and times are lean for private enquiry agent William Monk and his wife Hester who receives no money for working at the clinic in Portpool Lane that provides medical care to sick and injured prostitutes. Louvain, a powerful business man who makes a profit in shipping, hires Monk to recovery a shipment of ivory that was stolen off his shop while it was waiting to dock. One of the crew still on board was murdered and Monk intends to find out who the killer is and bring him to justice even though he won¿t get any additional fees for it........................................ The ivory must be found within a certain period of time or Louvain won¿t be unable to pay off a creditor who is also his rival. If that happens he won¿t be able to bid on a fast clipper ship that he wants to add to his fleet. While Monk makes contacts along the river to find out who received the ivory, Hester is battling a different kind of killer, one that hasn¿t been seen in Europe since the middle ages........................................... Anne Perry can always be counted on to write an exciting historical police procedural and THE SHIFTING TIDE is obvious proof of this assertion. Hester and Monk battle with more than a serial killer and that brings the focus of the tale as much on the nurse fighting a deadly disease as the hero trying to get an innocent man off death row. There is plenty of action in Ms Perry¿s latest thriller but it is the two special people who risk their lives for humanity that readers will care about............................ Harriet Klausner

      2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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    • Anonymous

      Posted June 20, 2006

      highly recommended

      any book with Hester and Monk by Anne Perry is great!

      1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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    • Anonymous

      Posted July 18, 2004

      Another great adventure of William and Hester Monk.

      Anne Perry novels always bring you the perfect blend of colorful characters, history and a great mystery. The Shifting Tide gave us a new setting on the docks - an excellent adventure, as always. I can never decide which of Ms. Perry's series I love most, it is usually the one I'm currently reading.

      1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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