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Sustaining the Presumption of Innocence Requires Courage and Persistence
on 9 January 2012
"The way of a guilty man is perverse;
But as for the pure, his work is right." -- Proverbs 21:8 (NKJV)
This is my favorite of the William Monk novels in its brilliant portrayal of ethical dilemmas in Victorian England.
If you have not read Execution Dock, be sure to read or listen to that book before Acceptable Loss, which continues the story in that prior William Monk novel. Such knowledge is necessary to gain the full benefit of reading Acceptable Loss.
I am reviewing the unabridged audio CD, which I listened to, rather than the printed (or Kindle) version. I apologize in advance if I misspell any character names since I haven't seen most of them.
Acceptable Loss addresses some very fundamental issues that may make you feel uncomfortable. But the best novels do that. Let me mention them in case they are reasons for you to avoid the story.
The most obvious source of discomfort is the investigation of a criminal scheme involving blackmailing men who abuse imprisoned boys for thrills and sexual gratification. A second source of discomfort relates to the personal cost of the obligation to seek justice . . . something that may cause a reader or listener unease in examining herself or himself in her or his own personal matters. A third dimension of discomfort comes from the issue of personal loyalty versus public responsibility when long-term personal happiness is at stake. A fourth type of discomfort can follow realizing how corrupt one is forced to become when serving those who lack morality. A fifth source of discomfort comes in the issue of how far someone should go in using immoral means to achieve "good" purposes.
The story opens as a police procedural with William Monk investigating the death of a floater on the Thames who is soon identified as sleazy character, Mickey Parfitt. While some investigators might have taken the easy way out and simply not looked into the "loss" of another criminal, Monk does his duty. Monk soon finds a pathway of clues that leads close to his own career and home. If he continues to seek justice, it's quickly obvious that his very career in the police and reputation as a reputable investigator will be part of the personal stake he must risk.
The plot is exceptionally well designed to raise lots of ethical, legal, and practical issues that will make many readers feel placed in the middle of such difficult questions. Be patient as you read. It takes awhile for the dilemmas to emerge. The story is stretched out in places, I believe, to bring the dilemmas closer to the reader's or listener's heart.
One of my favorite elements of the story comes in its careful demonstration of the limits to justice being done through the criminal trial process.