Perry’s first novel surprised because of the underlying tension gradually building up and ending with a surprising bang. In The Essex Serpent the reverse is the case. The fear of a scary, dragon-like sea creature is keeping an entire village in its grip. The truth, causing the village and all the main characters to relax once more, turns out to be an anti-climax. William and Cora are the most important characters: the vicar whose wife is dying of tuberculosis, the widow who is trying to regain her freedom and life in the small coastal village. When they meet it is clear that they were meant to be together. William’s world has been given clear boundaries by Perry: wife Stella, the children, some friends and the village. Cora’s world is more difficult. She has two admirers, Martha and Luke, who Perry spends quite a lot of time on. Socialist Martha who is in love with Cora, who spends her time improving the world meanwhile getting her admirer, wealthy Spencer to build decent houses for the poor, and who eventually decides to spend her life with an humble civil servant who got stabbed once and who was saved by brilliant surgeon Luke. His hand is maimed when the original stabber tries to take revenge, he will never operate again. Are you still with me? Probably not and therein lies the problem of The Essex Serpent. Perry has written a novel that delights with beautifully written prose: exquisite descriptions of nature, of city and village of feelings. The link between all those beautiful descriptions has gone lost in the desire to tell it all. I found myself wandering off, losing focus. William and Cora have to share with too many people, with too many story lines. The deliberate anti-climax when the true origin of the monster is revealed becomes an almost irrelevant – though again beautifully written – afterthought. Perry is a gifted writer, one who needs to make choices though, she has to learn to kill her darlings.