Murder Among Friends celebrated the New Year with a discussion on a celebrated book by a widely-acclaimed mystery author: The Face of a Stranger by Anne Perry. While we didn’t get to speak with Anne about this book, the group enthusiastically held a lively discussion about it. Patricia shared background about the novel, and how it has made all the top mystery lists by independent bookstores, mystery organizations, and mystery reference books as one of the cornerstone titles in the mystery world that mystery aficionados should read.
Members agreed that the opening where the author immediately establishes a sense of peril just by putting the hero in a Victorian hospital showed how skilled Perry is in suspenseful writing. The whole concept of having to get to know yourself only by the reactions and statements of others was unique and thought-provoking. We spent some time talking about how we reacted to getting to know the character that way. One member mentioned that she had to remind herself that the impression she was getting was only other characters’ perspectives, not necessarily correct in how they see him. We all agreed however, that he definitely has a pattern of being abrupt-to-rude, impatient, quick-tempered with his colleagues, and unquestionably engaged in a duel of wits with a supervisor who obviously hates him.
We could all empathize with the challenge of trying to appease such a boss, and having to do it when you are clueless about yourself could overwhelm a lot of people. The fact he is also trying to solve a murder without knowing how he would usually investigate it, or who he would have for resources, helped to highlight the help he does get from John Evan, his young sergeant, and a forthright, independent nurse, lately back from the war in Crimea, Hester Latterly. We liked both of these characters, and members were happy to hear that both of them continue to appear in the Monk series.
We also talked about how tenuous one’s feelings about a person can be. When first introduced to the victim of the story, he appeared to be quite an upstanding, charming, fellow. Perry expertly plays the shifting perspectives on all her characters, particularly with revelations about the victim late in the story.
As a character study, a time-travel experience, and a well-plotted mystery we gave The Face of a Stranger one of our highest scores, and a number of members plan to continue reading the series. Patricia also shared with the potential writers in the group that Lisle Library owns Anne Perry’s non-fiction DVD on writing called Put Your Heart on the Page. Click on the title to go to our catalog link for this DVD.
Click here to go directly to the blog page for the Cast of Characters: for Anne Perry's "The Face of a Stranger".