The Face of a Stranger (William Monk Series #1)

The Face of a Stranger (William Monk Series #1)

by Anne Perry


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The Face of a Stranger (William Monk Series #1) by Anne Perry

In this exhilarating series debut, police detective William Monk must solve the mystery of his own past.

His name, they tell him, is William Monk, and he is a London police detective. But the accident that felled him has left him with only half a life; his memory and his entire past have vanished. As he tries to hide the truth, Monk returns to work and is assigned to investigate the brutal murder of a Crimean War hero and man about town. Which makes Monk's efforts doubly difficult, since he's forgotten his professional skills along with everything else.

“Richly textured with the sights and sounds of London and its countryside . . . Solidly absorbing and Perry's best to date.”—Kirkus Reviews

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780345513557
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
Publication date: 09/30/2008
Series: William Monk Series , #1
Pages: 368
Sales rank: 112,584
Product dimensions: 5.20(w) x 7.90(h) x 0.90(d)

About the Author

Anne Perry is the bestselling author of two acclaimed series set in Victorian England: the William Monk novels, including Blind Justice and A Sunless Sea, the Charlotte and Thomas Pitt novels, including Death on Blackheath and Midnight at Marble Arch. She is also the author of a series of five World War I novels, as well as eleven holiday novels, most recently A New York Christmas, and a historical novel, The Sheen on the Silk, set in the Ottoman Empire. Anne Perry lives in Scotland and Los Angeles.


Portmahomack, Ross-shire, U.K

Date of Birth:

October 28, 1938

Place of Birth:

Blackheath, London England

Read an Excerpt

He opened his eyes and saw nothing but a pale grayness above him, uniform, like a winter sky, threatening and heavy. He blinked and looked again. He was lying flat on his back; the grayness was a ceiling, dirty with the grime and trapped fumes of years.
He moved slightly. The bed he was lying on was hard and short. He made an effort to sit up and found it acutely painful. Inside his chest a fierce pain stabbed him, and his left arm was heavily bandaged and aching. As soon as he was half up his head thumped as if his pulse were a hammer behind his eyes.
There was another wooden cot just like his own a few feet away, and a pasty-faced man lay on it, moving restlessly, gray blanket mangled and sweat staining his shirt. Beyond him was another, blood-soaked bandages swathing the legs; and beyond that another, and so on down the great room to the black-bellied stove at the far end and the smoke-scored ceiling above it.
Panic exploded inside him, hot prickling through his skin. He was in a workhouse! God in heaven, how had he come to this?
But it was broad daylight! Awkwardly, shifting his position, he stared around the room. There were people in all the cots; they lined the walls, and every last one was occupied. No workhouse in the country allowed that! They should be up and laboring, for the good of their souls, if not for the workhouse purse. Not even children were granted the sin of idleness.
Of course; it was a hospital. It must be! Very carefully he lay down again, relief overwhelming him as his head touched the bran pillow. He had no recollection of how he had come to be in such a place, no memory of having hurt himself—and yet he was undoubtedly injured, his arm was stiff and clumsy, he was aware now of a deep ache in the bone. And his chest hurt him sharply every time he breathed in. There was a thunderstorm raging inside his head. What had happened to him? It must have been a major accident: a collapsing wall, a violent throw from a horse, a fall from a height? But no impression came back, not even a memory of fear.
He was still struggling to recall something when a grinning face appeared above him and a voice spoke cheerfully.
“Now then, you awake again, are you?”
He stared upwards, focusing on the moon face. It was broad and blunt with a chapped skin and a smile that stretched wide over broken teeth.
He tried to clear his head.
“Again?” he said confusedly. The past lay behind him in dreamless sleep like a white corridor without a beginning.
“You’re a right one, you are.” The voice sighed good-humoredly. “You dunno nuffin’ from one day ter the next, do yer? It wouldn’t surprise me none if yer didn’t remember yer own name! ’Ow are yer then? ’Ow’s yer arm?”
“My name?” There was nothing there, nothing at all.
“Yeah.” The voice was cheerful and patient. “Wot’s yer name, then?”
He must know his name. Of course he must! It was … Blank seconds ticked by.
“Well then?” the voice pressed.
He struggled. Nothing came except a white panic, like a snowstorm in the brain, whirling and dangerous, and without focus.
“Yer’ve fergot!” The voice was stoic and resigned. “I thought so. Well the Peelers was ’ere, day afore yesterday; an’ they said as you was ‘Monk’—‘William Monk.’ Now wot ’a you gorn an’ done that the Peelers is after yer?” He pushed helpfully at the pillow with enormous hands and then straightened the blanket. “You like a nice ’ot drink then, or suffink? Proper parky it is, even in ’ere. July—an it feels like ruddy November! I’ll get yer a nice ’ot drink o’ gruel, ’ow’s that then? Raining a flood outside, it is. Ye’re best off in ’ere.”
“William Monk?” he repeated the name.
“That’s right, leastways that’s wot the Peelers says. Feller called Runcorn, ’e was; Mr. Runcorn, a hinspector, no less!” He raised scruffy eyebrows. “Wot yer done, then? You one o’ them Swell Mob wot goes around pinchin’ gennelmen’s wallets and gold watches?” There was no criticism in his round, benign eyes. “That’s wot yer looked like when they brought yer in ’ere, proper natty dressed yer was, hunderneath the mud and torn-up stuff, like, and all that blood.”
Monk said nothing. His head reeled, pounding in an effort to perceive anything in the mists, even one clear, tangible memory. But even the name had no real significance. “William” had a vague familiarity but it was a common enough name. Everyone must know dozens of Williams.
“So yer don’t remember,” the man went on, his face friendly and faintly amused. He had seen all manner of human frailty and there was nothing so fearful or so eccentric it disturbed his composure. He had seen men die of the pox and the plague, or climb the wall in terror of things that were not there. A grown man who could not remember yesterday was a curiosity, but nothing to marvel at. “Or else yer ain’t saying,” he went on. “Don’t blame yer.” He shrugged. “Don’t do ter give the Peelers nothin’ as yer don’t ’ave ter. Now d’yer feel like a spot of ’ot gruel? Nice and thick, it is, bin sitting on that there stove a fair while. Put a bit of ’eart inter yer.”
Monk was hungry, and even under the blanket he realized he was cold.
“Yes please,” he accepted.
“Right-oh then, gruel it is. I suppose I’ll be a’tellin’ yer yer name termorrer jus’ the same, an’ yer’ll look at me all gormless again.” He shook his head. “Either yer ’it yer ’ead summink ’orrible, or ye’re scared o’ yer wits o’ them Peelers. Wot yer done? You pinched the crown jools?” And he went off chuckling with laughter to himself, up to the black-bellied stove at the far end of the ward.
Police! Was he a thief? The thought was repellent, not only because of the fear attached to it but for itself, what it made of him. And yet he had no idea if it might be true.
Who was he? What manner of man? Had he been hurt doing something brave, rash? Or chased down like an animal for some crime? Or was he merely unfortunate, a victim, in the wrong place at the wrong time?
He racked his mind and found nothing, not a shred of thought or sensation. He must live somewhere, know people with faces, voices, emotions. And there was nothing! For all that his memory held, he could have sprung into existence here in the hard cot in this bleak hospital ward.
But he was known to someone! The police.
The man returned with the gruel and carefully fed it to Monk, a spoonful at a time. It was thin and tasteless, but he was grateful for it. Afterwards he lay back again, and struggle as he might, even fear could not keep him from deep, apparently dreamless sleep.

Table of Contents

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The Face of a Stranger (William Monk Series #1) 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 19 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
As usual Anne spins a web of mystery that is impossible to put down.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The concept of a detective with severe amnesia being able to successfully resolve a rather complex mystery was a bit to overcome but the action and character development was excellent and kept me turning the pages. I'm anxious to read the next in the series.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Hard to get started in this one, but worth it. Plan to buy more in this series.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Original and well written. Described the social tensions of the time well. Characters are likeable because they are flawed. Good twists at the end. Made me want to read more. 
mcmullin More than 1 year ago
Ann Perry takes the reader step by step as Monk works to learn his identity and at the same time solve the murder of Joselin Grey. The reader finds themselves thrust into solving the crime along side Monk, Hester and Evan. A must read for anyone who likes mystery and period history.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I just bought this novel for X-mas and this novel is great and I love the way she had started the mystery: A man who is laid in the hospital and doesn't remember his name or anything about himself. Now a man who fought in the war Joscelin Grey is found in his room brutally killed. Now Monk is investigation with a colleague by the name of Evan and when Monk solves the crime he is starting to solve the crime and starting to solve his past. Anne Perry knows how to write a Victorian Mystery and this is a Victorian Mystery. This book is great so far that I'm going to buy the next 2 Monk books! The Face of A Stranger is fascinating to read with describing the streets of London and also her characters are fully developed.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Great premise! An amnesiac detective, using his intelligence and that of his assistant , to unravel a case which would challenge an investigator with no impairment . The book is plotted fairly and wonderfully written. I look forward to the next.
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Arthur_Coombe More than 1 year ago
Good read for Anglophiles. Set in Victorian England, it's atmospheric and descriptive and will probably be enjoyed by anyone interested in that era. For me, the most interesting aspect was the interaction between people of different classes: for example, aristocracy and middle class.
JimJF More than 1 year ago
This book is intrigueing and contains a look into a European war being waged shortly before our Civil War. The characters are well defined and developed, and the progression of the story is far from predictable. I learned about several peculiarities in the British way of speaking as they relate to how English has evolved in the USA. I had to look up Peelers for instance. I plan to read some more of Anne Perry.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I read this book right after reading a fluffy, easy-to-read mystery so it was a little hard to get into. Once I got into the groove of the book, I was hooked. I finished quickly and was pleased with the ending. I am currently reading the second book in the series.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The entire William Monk series by Anne Perry is a must read for anybody interested in historical mysteries. It is absorbing and well written. I was excited to see that recently (i.e., over the past few years) Ballentine Books is re-publishing the entire series in paperback. While the covers are absolutely beautiful, unfortunately, the paper that they use for the book is of mediocre quality. Further, given that the print is painfully small, with a poor choice of font and close typesetting, it becomes difficult to read this particular reprint of the book. The new paperbacks are definitely not worth the ~$15 price tag. I was a little surprised by this since the Random House Publishing Group has a reputation for quality work and Ballantine Books is one of their divisions.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
BookaholicUT More than 1 year ago
I bought this novel when it first came out in paperback and have bought each of the books in the series as thwy came out. Although Mr. Monk's knowledge of himself does not come back completely in this book, there is additional information about his history in each new book. I like that about the series. It keeps it fresh to wonder what Anne Perry will reveal about him in the next book. She does a good job of showing the stratified society of the Victorian age in both of her series. The William Monk series is set in the early Victorian age and touches on the Crimean and U.S. Civil wars. Her Thomas and Charlotte Pitt serries is set in the late Victorian age. If you like historical fiction Anne Perry's books are worth reading. I recommend both series to the new comer.
ravensegg More than 1 year ago
Perry is an interesting author; her books are interesting to read for their own sake, but even more fascinating if read with her personal history in mind. Having been jailed for murder herself in her juvenile years, Perry spends a lot of time exploring themes of morality and ethics in her books, and clearly empathizes with the deeply flawed leads in this particular series, perhaps more vividly than in her Thomas Pitt novels. I actually prefer the early books in the Monk series to any of Perry's other novels, specifically because the lead characters' flaws are deeper and more significant than later on, when experience and marital contentment have smoothed out their rough edges somewhat. A warning of sorts: These are novels depicting Victorian England, and both the style of the writing and the concerns they explore - social and political and religious mores of the period - are appropriate to that setting, although somewhat more graphic than books of that period would have been. If you are not particularly conversant with or interested in Victorian literature, you may find Perry's books to be inappropriate for a Light Read.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
For several years I have been curious about Anne Perry¿s writing. I thought the premise of an amnesiac protagonist was interesting, so I decided to start from the beginning of the series and purchased THE FACE OF A STRANGER. In the first chapter, Detective Monk awakens in the hospital not remembering anyone or anything. After leaving the hospital, Monk returns to work and begins searching for the killer of a young socialite. Though I learned a few things about the Crimean war, I found the novel to be quite heavy-handed and uninteresting. I felt no connection with the murder victim or his family. The descriptions of the aristocracy and their dinner parties seemed unnecessary and boring. Though I understand the period in which the novel was written, I did not like the way in which women were portrayed as empty-headed and overly-emotional¿needing to be protected from the real world. When I finally managed to finish the novel I was very disappointed with the abrupt conclusion. I leafed through the remaining pages of the book hoping to find an epilogue only to discover that what I had read was indeed the end of the story. I was left wondering how Ms. Perry has managed to continue this series for so long. THE FACE OF A STRANGER was a great disappointment and will definitely end up in my giveaway pile.