Anne Perry is one of my two most beloved contemporary authors. The second author is someone I need as a “chaser” after I finish a Perry novel.
I first stumbled across Perry’s Funeral in Blue while writing a novel I set in 1888 England. I wanted to be immersed in a story but also aware of how a modern writer might negotiate detail, language, and pacing set in that era. And no one immerses better or creates an all-encompassing novel like Anne Perry. So Perry immediately became my number-one read whether I was working on my own novels or not.
I fell in love with both her main detectives, their significant others, their strengths and weaknesses, their noble causes and quiet fears. And I braced myself for the hard realities Perry would inevitably present, book to book. She pulls no punches and her books have yet to disappoint. They are consistent, their details impeccably rich, the dialogue is smart and never overwrought, and her settings and characters are impossible to ignore. Perry takes as much time for psychology as she does for set dressing, both of which are equally important in establishing and maintaining as rich an inner world as she creates an outer world. And yet, I always have to take a deep breath and brace myself before I dive in to a Perry novel. They are heavy creatures.
I confess, Execution Dock nearly killed me. I was haunted. I lost sleep. I was profoundly moved and distraught, knowing that the world hasn’t come close to comprehending or defeating the sick horror of child abuse and trafficking in our modern day and age. We cannot be comforted by thinking we’ve come such a long way from the Victorians and their myriad issues. I see our modern world through those dark damask curtains and I am illuminated in both past and present realities.
I have to admit, I haven’t gone back to Perry since Execution Dock, due to the emotional drain it took upon me. The dire subject matter of the prostituted children, the horrific cycles of despair and poverty, the mounting troubles facing Monk . . . it was all so overwhelming. An amazing book, as always, and important, for haunting past-to-present echoes. But I was overwhelmed and psychically exhausted. I needed a stiff drink and a serious palate cleanser.
Enter Elizabeth Peters.
Dear Elizabeth Peters. Dearly beloved, trusted parasol!
Peters is my “chaser” after an Anne Perry novel, when the weight of Perry’s work is sitting like a beautiful, squirming rock in the pit of my stomach and I need a change of pace. Nothing like good old Amelia Peabody to brighten your day with ridiculous antics. Peters is one of the few authors who can get me to laugh out loud and that’s so welcome after Perry’s grim-but-necessary subjects. It’s brilliant for me, reading between these two utterly opposite poles, because they are so wildly different, yet each so well written and true to craft. The ride between their two extremes is nearly as exhilarating as their novels.
And I’m so glad they each exist, because thanks to them I don’t have to leave the 19th century, as I am loath to do.
Leanna Renee Hieber is an actress, playwright, and award winning, nationally bestselling author of Gothic Victorian Fantasy novels for adults and teens. She’s most at home in the 1880s and may have to be dragged, forced or threatened to write novels outside of historical settings. Her latest novel, Darker Still: A Novel of Magic Most Foul is an Indie Next List pick by the ABA and a Scholastic Book Fairs “Highly Recommended” title. She’ll be playing Deputy Kellion in Auror’s Tale and will be releasing the sequel in the Magic Most Foul saga, The Twisted Tragedy of Miss Natalie Stewart , this November. She is @leannarenee and on Facebook.
Read all posts by Leanna Renee Hieber for Criminal Element.