A Breach of Promise Summary
by Juliet Marion Hulme

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A Breach of Promise

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

Anne Perry, a past master of Victorian mysteries that sharply critique the mores of the day, further certifies her stature in A Breach of Promise, continuing her William Monk stories.

Distinguished solicitor Sir Oliver Rathbone rests in his office after bringing a long and challenging case to a successful end. Enter Killian Melville, a youthful, rising architect with an anguished request for help: His friendship with Miss Zillah Lambert has been misinterpreted by her parents, the self-made Barton Lambert and his formidable wife Delphine, as intent to marry. Melville insists—perhaps too loudly—that his feelings for Zillah do not extend beyond friendship. He seeks Rathbone’s aid in release from the presumed marriage promise. Rathbone suspects hidden motivations, but does not doubt Melville’s earnestness. He accepts the case, and enlists the aid of private investigator William Monk and his friend, nurse Hester Latterly.

As is typical of an Anne Perry mystery, when Monk and Latterly probe the facts of the case, they find themselves at odds with some of the most firmly entrenched structures of Victorian society. Galling shadows from the past of Delphine Lambert begin to surface. Once the investigation moves into the courtroom, Rathbone’s suspicions are realized when Killian Melville is found dead at home, and the young architect’s carefully kept secret is revealed.

Veteran readers of Anne Perry will be left open mouthed by Monk and Latterly as they resolve the multiple angles of the mystery in the final pages of the story.