Slaves of Obsession (William Monk Series #11) [NOOK Book]


The year is 1861. The American Civil War has just begun, and London arms dealer Daniel Alberton is becoming a very wealthy man. His quiet dinner party seems remote indeed from the passions rending America. Yet investigator William Monk and his bride, Hester, sense growing tensions and barely concealed violence. For two of the guests are Americans, each vying to buy Alberton’s armaments. Soon Monk and Hester’s forebodings are fulfilled as one member of the party is brutally murdered and two others disappear– along...
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Slaves of Obsession (William Monk Series #11)

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The year is 1861. The American Civil War has just begun, and London arms dealer Daniel Alberton is becoming a very wealthy man. His quiet dinner party seems remote indeed from the passions rending America. Yet investigator William Monk and his bride, Hester, sense growing tensions and barely concealed violence. For two of the guests are Americans, each vying to buy Alberton’s armaments. Soon Monk and Hester’s forebodings are fulfilled as one member of the party is brutally murdered and two others disappear– along with Alberton’s entire inventory of weapons. As Monk and Hester track the man they believe to be the murderer all the way to Washington, D.C., and the bloody battlefield at Manassas, Slaves of Obsession twists and turns like a powder-keg fuse and holds the reader breathless and spellbound. . . .
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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
The Barnes & Noble Review
In Slaves of Obsession, Anne Perry thrusts her returning hero, William Monk, into the midst of the American Civil War. Monk is not choosing sides in this war based on the convictions of the Union or the Confederacy. Instead, he must put aside his principles to get to the bottom of a complex case involving gun smuggling, blackmail, and murder.

Slaves of Obsession begins with a dinner party at the home of Daniel and Judith Alberton. William Monk and his wife, Hester, meet not only the host and the hostess at this intimate gathering but also Judith's cousin Robert Casbolt, a Union sympathizer named Lyman Breeland, and the Alberton's 16-year-old daughter, Merritt. Although Breeland is quick to share his convictions, Daniel, Robert, and Judith remain more reticent on the topic of the war and try to change the subject. When an unexpected visitor named Philo Trace, a member of the Confederate army, arrives, their taciturnity regarding the Civil War becomes all too clear. Daniel and Robert deal in arms and have made a previous agreement with Trace to sell him guns for the Confederacy -- guns that Breeland desperately wants for his sacred Union.

Having to choose sides in the Civil War is the least of Alberton and Casbolt's problems, however. They soon turn to Monk for help as they are embroiled in a blackmail scheme in which an unknown person wants them to sell their valuable guns to pirates; if they fail to do so, an altruistic secret of theirs will be revealed in such a way that their reputations will be ruined.

Monk agrees to aid them, but before he can begin to help, everything spirals out of control: When William and Hester are awakened by a knock on their door, their lives become entangled with murder; a missing daughter whose passions are engaged not only by the war; a Civil War battlefield; and a London courtroom.

Anne Perry's Victorian mysteries have always been more than just simple whodunits, and Slaves of Obsession is no exception. At first glance, it seems as though the Civil War is at the center of the turmoil, but there's much more at the heart of this work in which love plays a more crucial role than money or war. Perry's superior sense of adventure and her peerless knowledge of the Victorian era enable her readers to enter her worlds so completely that they keep coming back for more.

--Jennifer Jarett

Toby Bromberg
Anne Perry tells a grand story in Slaves of Obsession. Her research is magnificent and the Battle of Manassas is so vividly described it is as if we have been on the battlefield. The story is utterly compelling and Perry teases us with more hints about Monk’s mysterious background.
Romantic Times
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
At the start of Perry's latest Victorian page-turner (after The Twisted Root), London-based private detective William Monk agrees to attend a dinner party at the lush home of arms dealer Daniel Alberton only for the sake of his wife, Hester. Hester, who served as a nurse with Florence Nightingale in the Crimea, is as gregarious as her husband is reserved. At the party, the Monks meet a volatile cast of characters, including Daniel's wife, Judith, a half-Italian beauty devoted to her husband and their 16-year-old daughter, Merrit. Daniel clearly adores Judith, as does her cousin, Casbolt, her husband's dapper partner in the arms business. Merrit, however, is blinded by passion for Lyman Breeland, a tall, thirtyish American who has come to England to buy guns for the Union Army. When Breeland's handsome Confederate counterpart, Philo Trace, appears unexpectedly at the end of dinner, Daniel admits that he's selling guns to Trace rather than Breeland because Trace asked first. Later, after Daniel turns up dead and Merrit runs off to America with Breeland, Monk and Hester follow, landing with Trace in the thick of the first battle of Bull Run. Monk brings Breeland back to London to stand trial for Daniel's murder, only to have doubts before the ship docks. Rich in period detail and ripe with an understanding of the agony of unrequited love, Perry's heated tale is marred by a subplot involving blackmail and pirates that never pays off. In addition, patches of overwriting will flag the villain to astute readers. 10-city author tour. (Oct.) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
The latest in Perry's Victorian mysteries featuring William and Hester Monk takes the reader from British drawing rooms and courtrooms to American Civil War battlefields and the docks and depths of the Thames River. Vividly describing all of these settings, Perry weaves an intricate tale of love, greed, slavery, and murder. William Monk, agent of enquiry, is employed to discover who is blackmailing respectable merchant and arms dealer Daniel Alberton. Monk soon finds himself investigating Alberton's murder, however, and looking for the murderer on the battlefield at Bull Run. Full of unexpected twists and revelations, this intriguing and satisfying mystery is one of Perry's best. All public libraries will want to purchase it to satisfy the author's many fans.--Jean Langlais, St. Charles P.L., IL Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.\
Connie Fletcher
In her eleventh William Monk mystery, Perry, noted for evocations of Victorian-era England, extends her range from the drawing rooms and choked streets of London to the American Civil War. This surprising stretch serves to heighten the reader's sense of the horrors of war by showing it from a British perspective.
Kirkus Reviews
Perry turns from her customary Victorian social issues to the War Between the States when enquiry agent William Monk (The Twisted Root, 1999, etc.) takes on the case of Daniel Alberton. An arms dealer who's entreated alternately by Confederate naval officer Philo Trace and Union emissary Lyman Breeland (whom Alberton's daughter Merrit is clearly in love with) to sell the same six thousand muskets and half a million rounds of ammunition, Alberton takes Monk aside after a tempestuous dinner to tell him that he's being blackmailed by pirates attempting to use a secret from his past to force him into still another alternative deal. Alberton soon foils the blackmail plot by getting killed along with two guards at a warehouse with nary a sign of guns or bullets-or of Breeland or Merrit Alberton. But after bringing the plot to a masterly boil in the opening two chapters, Perry lets it stew till it's a hopeless muddle. Monk and Hester, departing for America to search for the leading suspect and his ladylove, slog through a heartfelt but pointless recounting of First Manassas, return with their quarry to London, and then settle in for intolerable rounds of rehashing the same old evidence, eventually leading to one of the awkwardly extended courtroom sequences Perry has recently affected before an improbable brainwave leads to the abrupt, helter-skelter climax.
From the Publisher
“A rich tapestry of period details . . . Perry keeps up the suspense right to the end.”Baltimore Sun

“When it comes to the Victorian murder mystery, no one can top [Anne] Perry. . . . This is one of her best.”—San Francisco Examiner
“Scenes are brilliantly etched . . . [Perry is] the most adroit sleight-of-hand practitioner since Agatha Christie.”—Chicago Sun-Times

“Meticulously constructed . . . Perry’s images of the carnage and confusion of battle are relentless in their intensity, unflinching in their truth-telling detail.”—The New York Times Book Review
“A welcome and entertaining read . . . Perry writes with a deft sense of history and place.”—The Cincinnati Post

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780345446893
  • Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 4/27/2011
  • Series: William Monk Series, #11
  • Sold by: Random House
  • Format: eBook
  • Sales rank: 77,217
  • File size: 2 MB

Meet the Author

Anne Perry
Among Anne Perry’s other novels featuring investigator William Monk are Funeral in Blue, The Twisted Root, A Breach of Promise, The Silent Cry, and Weighed in the Balance. She also writes the popular novels featuring Thomas and Charlotte Pitt, including The Whitechapel Conspiracy, Half Moon Street, Bedford Square, Brunswick Gardens, Ashworth Hall, and Pentecost Alley. “Her grasp of Victorian character and conscience still astonishes,” said The Cleveland Plain Dealer about the author. Hundreds of thousands of readers in Europe and America agree. Anne Perry lives in Scotland.

Visit the author on the Web at
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    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

"We are invited to dine with Mr. and Mrs. Alberton," Hester said in reply to Monk's questioning gaze across the breakfast table. "They are friends of Callandra's. She was to go as well, but has been called to Scotland unexpectedly."

"I suppose you would like to accept anyway," he deduced, watching her face. He usually read her emotions quickly,
sometimes with startling accuracy, at others misunderstanding entirely. On this occasion he was correct.

"Yes, I would. Callandra said they are charming and interesting and have a very beautiful home. Mrs. Alberton is half
Italian, and apparently Mr. Alberton has travelled quite a lot as well."

"Then I suppose we had better go. Short notice, isn't it?" he said less than graciously.

It was short notice indeed, but Hester was not disposed to find unnecessary fault with something which promised to be interesting, and possibly even the beginning of a new friendship. She did not have many friends. The nature of her work as a nurse had meant that her friendships were frequently of a fleeting nature. She had not been involved with any gripping cause for quite some little time. Even Monk's cases, while financially rewarding, had over the last four months of spring and early summer been most uninteresting, and he had not sought her assistance, or in most of them her opinion. She did not mind that, robberies were tedious, largely motivated by greed, and she did not know the people concerned.

"Good," she said with a smile, folding up the letter. "I shall write back immediately saying that we shall be delighted."

His answering look was wry, only very slightly sarcastic.

They arrived at the Alberton house in Tavistock Square just before half past seven. It was, as Callandra had said,
handsome, although Hester would not have thought it worth remarking on. However she changed her mind as soon as they were in the hallway which was dominated by a curving staircase at the half turn of which was an enormous stained glass window with the evening sun behind it. It was truly beautiful, and Hester found herself staring at it when she should have been paying attention to the butler who had admitted them, and watching where she was going.

The withdrawing room also was unusual. There was less furniture in it than was customary, and the colours were paler and warmer, giving an illusion of light even though in fact the long windows which overlooked the garden faced towards the eastern sky. The shadows were already lengthening, although it would not be dark yet until after ten o'clock at this time so shortly after midsummer.

Hester's first impression of Judith Alberton was that she was an extraordinarily beautiful woman. She was taller than average, but with a slender neck and shoulders which made more apparent the lush curves of her figure, and lent it a delicacy it might otherwise not have possessed. Her face, when looked at more closely, was totally wrong for conventional fashion. Her nose was straight and quite prominent, her cheekbones very high, her mouth too large and her chin definitely short. Her eyes were slanted and of a golden autumn shade. The whole impression was both generous and passionate. The longer one looked at her the lovelier she seemed. Hester liked her immediately.

"How do you do," Judith said warmly. "I am so pleased you have come. It was kind of you on so hasty an invitation. But
Lady Callandra spoke of you with such affection I did not wish to wait." She smiled at Monk. Her eyes lit with a flare of interest as she regarded his dark face with its lean bones and broad-bridged nose, but it was Hester to whom she addressed her attention. "May I introduce my husband?"

The man who came forward was pleasing rather than handsome, far more ordinary than she was, but his features were regular and there was both strength and charm in them.

"How do you do, Mrs. Monk," he said with a smile, but when courtesy was met he turned immediately to Monk behind her,
searching his countenance steadily for a moment before holding out his hand in welcome, and then turning aside so the rest of the company could be introduced.

There were three other people in the room. One was a man in his mid forties, his dark hair thinning a little. Hester noticed first his wide smile and spontaneous handshake. He had a natural confidence, as if he were sure enough of himself and his beliefs he had no need to thrust them upon anyone else. He was happy to listen to others. It was a quality she could not help but like. His name was Robert Casbolt, and he was introduced not only as Alberton's business partner and friend since youth, but also Judith's cousin.

The other man present was American. As one could hardly help being aware, that country had in the last few months slipped tragically into a state of civil war. There had not as yet been anything more serious than a few ugly skirmishes, but open violence seemed increasingly probable with every fresh bulletin that arrived across the Atlantic.
War seemed more and more likely.

"Mr. Breeland is from the Union," Alberton said courteously, but there was no warmth in his voice.

Hester looked at Breeland as she acknowledged the introduction. He appeared to be in his early thirties, tall and very straight, with square shoulders and the upright stance of a soldier. His features were regular, his expression polite but severely controlled, as if he felt he must be constantly on guard against any slip or relaxation of awareness.

The last person was the Albertons' daughter, Merrit. She was about sixteen, with all the charm, the passion and vulnerability of her years. She was fairer than her mother, and had not the beauty, but she had a similar strength of will in her face, and less ability to hide her emotions. She allowed herself to be introduced politely enough, but she did not make any attempt to pretend more than courtesy.

The preliminary conversation was on matters as simple as the weather, the increase in traffic on the streets and the crowds drawn by a nearby exhibition.

Hester wondered why Callandra had thought she and Monk might find these people congenial, but perhaps she was merely fond of them, and had discovered in them a kindness.

Breeland and Merrit moved a little apart, talking earnestly. Monk, Casbolt and Judith Alberton discussed the latest play, and Hester fell into conversation with Daniel Alberton.

"Lady Callandra told me you spent nearly two years out in the Crimea," he said with great interest. He smiled apologetically. "I am not going to ask you the usual questions about Miss Nightingale. You must find that tedious by now."

"She was a very remarkable person," Hester said. "I could not criticise anyone for seeking to know more about her."

His smile widened. "You must have said that so many times. You were prepared for it!"

She found herself relaxing. He was unexpectedly pleasant to converse with; frankness was always so much easier than continued courtesy. "Yes, I admit I was. It is ..."

"Unoriginal," he finished for her.


"Perhaps what I wanted to say was unoriginal also, but I shall say it anyway, because I do want to know." He frowned very slightly, drawing his brows together. His eyes were clear blue. "You must have exercised a great deal of courage out there, both physical and moral, especially when you were actually close to the battlefield. You must have made decisions which altered other peoples lives, perhaps saved them, or lost them."

That was true. She remembered with a jolt just how desperate it had been. It was as remote from this quiet summer evening in an elegant London withdrawing room, where the shade of a gown mattered, the cut of a sleeve. War, disease,
shattered bodies, the heat and flies, or the terrible cold, could all have been on another planet with no connection with this world at all except a common language, and yet no words that could ever explain one to the other.

She nodded.

"Do you not find it extraordinarily difficult to adjust from that life to this?" he asked, his voice was soft, but edged with a surprising intensity.

How much had Callandra told Judith Alberton, or her husband? Would Hester embarrass her with the Albertons in future if she were to be honest? Probably not. Callandra had never been a woman to run from the truth.

"Well I came back burning with determination to reform all our hospitals here at home," she said ruefully. "As you can see, I did not succeed, for several reasons. The chief among them was that no one would believe I had the faintest idea what I was talking about. Women don't understand medicine at all, and nurses in particular are for rolling bandages,
sweeping and mopping floors, carrying coal and slops, and generally doing as they are told." She allowed her bitterness to show. "It did not take me long to be dismissed, and earn my way by caring for private patients."

There was admiration in his eyes as well as laughter. "Was that not very hard for you?" he asked.

"Very," she agreed. "But I met my husband shortly after I came home. We were . . . I was going to say friends, but that is not true. Adversaries in a common cause, would describe it far better. Did Lady Callandra tell you that he is a private agent of enquiry?"

There was no surprise in his face, certainly nothing like alarm. In high society, gentlemen owned land or were in the army or politics. They did not work, in the sense of being employed. Trade was equally unacceptable. But whatever family background Judith Alberton came from, her husband showed no dismay that his guest should be little better than a policeman, an occupation fit only for the least desirable element.

"Yes," he admitted readily. "She told me she found some of his adventures quite fascinating, but she did not give me any details. I presumed they might be confidential."

"They are," she agreed. "I would not discuss them either, only to say that they have prevented me from missing any sense of excitement or decision that I felt in the Crimea. And for the most part my share in them has not required the physical privation or the personal danger of nursing in wartime."

"And the horror, or the pity?" he asked quietly.

"It has not sheltered me from those," she admitted. "Except for a matter of numbers. And I am not sure one feels any less for one person, if he or she is in desperate trouble, than one does for many."

"Quite." It was Robert Casbolt who spoke. He came up just behind Alberton, putting a companionable hand on his shoulder and regarding Hester with interest. "There is just so much the emotions can take, and one gives all one has, I imagine?
From what I have just overheard, you are a remarkable woman, Mrs. Monk. I am delighted Daniel thought to invite you and your husband to dine. You will enliven our usual conversation greatly, and I for one am looking forward to it." He lowered his voice conspiratorially. "No doubt we shall hear more of it over dinner--it is totally inescapable these days--but I have had more than sufficient of the war in America and its issues."

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Customer Reviews

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 18, 2000

    Brilliantly-crafted Victorian thriller

    When William and Hester Monk accept an invitation to dinner at the home of wealthy Daniel and Judith Alberton, they unwittingly involve themselves in a veritable Pandora's box of human obsessions. During its stormy course, they learn that Alberton and his brother-in-law, Robert Casbolt, are arms dealers who stand to make an additional fortune from the sale of some six thousand, top-quality rifles in the sellers' market created by the outbreak of the Civil War in America. Alberton has already made a gentlemen's agreement to sell them to visiting Philo Trace, representing the Confederacy, which is ardently challenged by his fellow-guest, Union-activist Lyman Breeland, who is desperately seeking the guns for his own side of the conflict and whose ardent belief in its cause has won both the heart and allegiance of Merrit, the Alberton's sixteen-year-old daughter. To further complicate matters, Alberton is being blackmailed over a misguided act of kindness with the guns as the price for silence. Monk is initially hired to investigate these circumstances, but before he can uncover the culprit, Alberton is murdered and the guns, Lyman (presumably his murderer) and Merrit have vanished. Mrs. Alberton pleads with Monk and Hester to follow their trail to America in order to find and retrieve her daughter. Accompanied by Trace, they arrive in Washington on the eve of the first battle of Bull Run upon whose bloody fields, they find Lyman. Subsequently, they bring both him and Merrit back to England where they must stand trial for murder. With series-regular Sir Oliver Rathbone directing their defense, the two are acquited, leaving Alberton's real murderer free to try again in the nail-biting denouement to this unforgettable excursion into the darker passions of Victorian life. SLAVES OF OBSESSION is an incredibly graphic, heart-breakingly brilliant book. What held me riveted to its pages was the artistry that has somehow managed to seamlessly incorporate enough material for three novels into one, utterly spell-binding adventure.

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  • Posted December 9, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    Her best work yet

    While England remains at peace, across the Atlantic, the first major battle of the Civil War occurs. Agents from the opposing forces try to buy arms from Daniel Alburton. While William and Hester Monk meet Daniel, his wife Judith, and their daughter Merrit, Lyman Breiland demands the arms merchant sell to the Union while Philo Trace wants the weapons to go to the Confederacy. <P> Albertson does not favor one side over the other, but will honor the deal he made with Trace. Merrit loves Lyman, but she suddenly disappears. Not long afterward, Culbert and two other men die and the guns and ammo are missing. Merrit and the Union soldier travel to America with evidence showing that she and her suitor committed the crimes. Judith Albertson asks the Monks to find his daughter and return her to England. As the Monks work on the case, they begin to wonder who are the victims and who are the criminals? <P>Anne Perry always writes a memorable Victorian mystery that leaves her myriad of fans shouting masterpiece. The glimpse of the American Civil War from the British side is enlightening as much as observing the English justice system at work. SLAVES OF OBSESSION is constructed in such a way so as to the make the mystery seem obvious until the protagonists begin to dig for the truth. The novel turns into a personal coup for the author showing yet again the degree of talent and confidence Ms. Perry has. <P>Harriet Klausner

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