Although Perrys principal character is private inquiry agent William Monk, his loving wife Hester is often featured as his intrepid crime solving partner. This story starts in England with the murder of wealthy arms dealer Daniel Alberton and the theft of his prodigious stock pile of weapons. Representatives from both the American Union and the Confederate sides have tried to outbid each other for Albertons arms. When his sixteen year old daughter, Merit, flees to the states following the radical Union officer Lyman Breeland, Monk and Hester are tasked with bringing both she and Breeland back. Could Breeland and Merits impassioned adherence to the anti-slavery cause have led them to commit this murder and steal the weapons?
The novel is placed in the American section of our list because of its vivid description of the turmoil at the start of the Civil War. Monk and Hester view the conflict through British eyes, considering both sessionist and unionist views while confronting the horrors of a people now at war with each other. Hester volunteers as a Union nurse on the battle fields of Manassus as a way to get close to Breeland. Her past experiences working alongside Florence Nightingale in the Crimean War hold her in good stead. Her dread and foreboding of what such a war means, and Perrys description of the vital role of female nurses and their first hand experiences of the butchery of war adds depth to the plot.