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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.
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. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
The book failed for me because I found it implausible that blackmail could succeed without the the blackmailer actually having anything dishonorable, illegal, or even embarrassing,... Read morePublished on Feb. 19 2002 by "brinsley_schwartz"
I really enjoyed this novel, my first novel by Ann Barry. If you are interested in period novels, this book is fascinating. BUT, the ending left much to be desired. Read morePublished on Jan. 3 2001 by "bear1101"
Anne Perry has outdone herself in this Pitt novel...the sheer intricacy of the plot is enough to keep you turning pages. Read morePublished on July 31 2000 by PolBECath
This isn't her best work but even second best from Perry is better than most mystery authors. I enjoyed it but was able to put it down which is usually not the case with her... Read morePublished on May 12 2000
I'm a long-time fan of Anne Perry, but her last several books have left me disappointed. I had trouble getting started with this one, not because I found her plot lacking, but her... Read morePublished on April 10 2000
I did manage to finish this book, but it took awhile. Was Ms. Perry under pressure from her publisher to finish this book? Not up to her usual standards. Very disappointing.Published on Nov. 28 1999 by Kate
This book was slow in parts but interesting in others. It was a typical murder mystery and I enjoyed reading it. Read morePublished on Nov. 2 1999 by Gina Piel
I am a huge fan of Anne Perry. I have read all of her books and eagerly look forward to the next one. Read morePublished on Oct. 1 1999
This book is a disappointment - either Perry is suffering from writer's fatigue or she just went through the motions with this story. Read morePublished on July 10 1999 by P.J. George