Even if you prefer the tougher, edgier William Monk books by Anne Perry, such as A Breach of Promise
, there's no denying the wealth of detail and the powerful emotions at work in her longer series of Victorian murder mysteries featuring Thomas and Charlotte Pitt. The Pitt books effectively merge Henry James with Raymond Chandler: by having a middleclass policeman married to a socialite, Perry can probe both worlds, as she does in Bedford Square
, a story of high-level blackmail and murder.
A famous historical scandal called the Tranby Croft affair (a gambling case involving the Prince of Wales) is very much in the news when the body of a working-class man is found early one morning on the posh doorstep of General Brandon Balantyne. No one in the house claims to know the murdered man, but he has a valuable piece of jewelry belonging to the Balantynes in his pocket. Thomas Pitt and his outspoken aide, Sergeant Tellman, must tread lightly, but Charlotte--and especially her sharp relative Lady Vespasia Cumming-Gould--aren't restrained by such social niceties. Gracie, the Pitts' smart and rough-tongued maid, is also a valued asset to the investigation, which proceeds in a satisfying, if not particularly surprising, manner to a highly dramatic conclusion.
Other recent books in the Pitt series include Brunswick Gardens, Ashworth Hall, and Pentecost Alley. --Dick Adler
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From Publishers Weekly
History, social commentary and suspense blend artfully in this 19th installment (after Brunswick Gardens, 1998) in Perry's popular series featuring London Police Superintendent Thomas Pitt and his adventurous wife, Charlotte. The mystery arises when a body is found outside the home of respectable General Brandon Balantyne (who appeared in two earlier Pitt novels). Pitt and Sergeant Tellman, whose class prejudices are challenged during the investigation, are mystified by the body's identity and the motive for the murder. Their diggings lead them to a parallel case, when Pitt discovers that six honorable men, including Balantyne and Assistant Police Commissioner Cornwallis, are being blackmailed. Perry uses the historical Tranby Croft gambling scandal involving the Prince of Wales as backdrop, highlighting how even the imputation of wrongdoing can tarnish someone's good name. To find the blackmailer, Pitt seeks a common bond among the accused. The careful reader may spy that link before Pitt does, but will nonetheless be swept along by the narrative's rush and engaged by its attention to period detail. Aiding Pitt is a cast of smart, well-drawn female characters: Charlotte, whose social connections afford her access to society's upper crust; Gracie, the Pitts' uneducated but no-nonsense maid; and Lady Vespasia Cumming-Gould, Charlotte's worldly-wise relation, who dominates the narrative once she joins the investigation. Pitt solves the case based on a clever red herring, uncovering the murderer in a quick, horrifying finale. Yet again, Perry delivers an astute and gripping examination of life behind Victorian England's virtuous facade. Mystery Guild main selection; author tour.
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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