Forlag London: Headlight
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Ex Crimean Nurse Hester Monk covers a shift for a friend when she finds a secret hospital ward where scared and very sick children are kept. While Hester tries to keep them alive, she finds out they are part of a cynical medical experiment. The three children and Hester herself soon find themselves in grave danger having been abducted to help with the experiment.
This is installment #21 in The William Monk Series. I enjoy them as stand-alone works and love the universe of characters she creates who show up like old friends. This story contains new male characters with discriminating behavior. By today’s standards Hester has to deal with appalling views on women. Discrimination against women in the work place seems to be an additional theme in the plot, which I find interesting from a historic point of view.
The descriptions annoy me even though I realize the characters have been crafted for this exact purpose. The patient Bryson Radnor, is the main example even though the chemist Hamilton Rand is also quite skilled in patronizing and condescending behavior towards Hester. Radnor has the full range of bad traits being condescending, ungrateful, manipulative and patronizing trying to undermine Hester for not being a man. In his defense I have to say he is sick and angry, not able to deal with receiving nursing help, but the way he makes the most of every moment to bully his own daughter as well as Hester makes me incredibly angry.
In this story Hester is the main character, even if there is a separate story line where Monk and his River Police are trying to keep London safe. They conduct an operation against a cargo ship smuggling weapons, which is not exactly a roaring success. This shorter part of the story seems like addition to the real story, whereas Hester stars in the main part. Monk, however, has to use his detective skills to rescue her towards the end of the plot.
Hester is faced with plenty of dilemmas connected to blood transfusion. I would imagine there were not much in the way of ethical regulations at the time even though blood transfusion had been tried on and off for hundreds of years. I find it interesting reading as we get to follow Hester’s though process when dealing with patients. She focuses mainly on keeping the children alive through this cynical experiment, when she is their only advocate.
The patient Radnor has consented and is paying for experimental treatment as this is his only hope to survive “the white blood disease”, today known as leukemia. Against Hester’s will she helps with the secret experimental treatment. As a nurse of the time she doesn’t seem to have much power or say in what she takes part in. Seems she pretty much does as she’s told even though she is the one with experience with severe blood loss, being an ex WW1 battlefield nurse.
I enjoy the cast of recurring characters, among them is Squeaky Robinson who somewhat lightens up the otherwise dark plot with his volatile temper and failed attempts to cover up his feelings. He has a good heart which he thinks nobody knows about. Having a history as a brothel owner involved in a number of shady and underhanded dealings, he has now somewhat cleaned up his act to only include the occasional forgery. I find it funny that Monk knows Squeaky sometimes colors outside the lines a bit, but closes his eyes as long as it’s nothing major. He works as a semi-reliable accountant for Hester’s health Clinique for prostitutes. In return he gets to live there for free.
The written East London Cockney dialect I sometimes find a bit hard to read, but I enjoy it a lot and feel it adds authenticity to the plot. The way Perry makes sure readers know upper class characters from lower class, I think works quite well in her stories.
Fans of Anne Perry’s numerous works will enjoy Corridors of The Night. It is also recommended for readers of historical fiction.
All opinions in this review are completely my own.
My rating 4 stars / 5
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