Victorian policeman William Monk wakes up in a hospital with total amnesia. Helpful nurses inform him of his name and occupation. Sensibly worried that if he confesses his memory loss, he'll be fired and then land in the workhouse or gutter, he decides to tell no one and fake his way through his life.

He's handed a difficult cold case involving an aristocrat who was savagely beaten to death with multiple blows of a blunt instrument. There is a great deal of discussion about how awful and brutal this is. That is the point at which I recalled that when Anne Perry was fifteen, she and her best friend brutally beat the friend's mother to death with multiple blows of a blunt instrument-- a sensational murder and trial commemorated in Peter Jackson's film Heavenly Creatures.

I promptly headed for Perry's website. Her biography refers to adolescent "tragedies and errors." I immediately recalled a certain anime character referring to the time when he went insane, cackled maniacally, killed a bunch of innocent people, and nearly killed his best friend as "a mistake."

Face of a Stranger is a compelling mystery even without that really very disturbing additional knowledge, as Monk fakes his way through life, investigating his case and his own self with equal doggedness. It also has a supremely cracktastic moment about four-fifths of the way through... which Monk temporarily believes that he himself committed the murder! Which would have been excellent. But alas, no, he merely and coincidentally happened to confront and attack the murder victim immediately before the real murdered walked in, literally as Monk walked out, and killed the guy. Too bad.

Perry's website mentions that she conceived of this book as an attempt to investigate the question of whether one can truly be guilty of a crime which one doesn't remember. Is she implying that she has amnesia for the murder she committed? I wonder...

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