Tag Archives: Thomas Pitt

Treason at Lisson Grove – Anne Perry

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Really, I was so glad to find an Anne Perry crime story on the library shelves I could have wept.  No experimental literary fails. No mind-numbing clog of words to cut through. No plot that assumes I have the intelligence of a dung beetle and not one iota more than its sophistication. (Sincere apologies to dung beetles.) Just a well-made Victorian thriller with Charlotte and Thomas Pitt sharing the honors and the remarkable Vespasia in a brilliant and essential cameo role. Treason at Lisson Grove was a delight.

I read it until I couldn’t make out the words anymore just before turning out the light. I read it in line waiting for free tickets to the Shakespeare Festival in the park–didn’t score any but the weather was perfect. I read it after the daily agony of coaxing my wheezing laptop through the tedious research needed to write web content that syphons off all the time I should be writing a book. It was excellent Anne Perry, which is to say that the story and the characters and the dilemma hold up splendidly and spending time in that book was pure pleasure.

Treachery is everywhere in the Special Branch and the very future of England is at stake as Thomas Pitt chases a spooked informant down alleys and through traffic with the help of a junior colleague. He is too late. The informant is stabbed–throat slit–moments before Pitt reaches him and the two detectives set off in pursuit of a murderer. So it begins. Pitt has no idea what he is pursuing. He and the colleague end up in France just as his mentor, the head of Special Branch, is ignominiously removed from office under the cloud of an embezzlement that cost an Irish collaborator who trusted him his life. Tip of the iceberg. Victor Narraway has painful ghosts in Ireland, and plenty of the living with long memories who hate him enough to nurture revenge plots for decades. So he plans to leave at once for Dublin.

Charlotte Pitt doesn’t hesitate to inform Narraway she is going along to help discover the truth. If his career is ruined, so is her husband’s–and her family homeless, no hope of work or an income to raise their children, everyone out to menial jobs, even the kids. Besides, she believes Narraway has been framed and she sees how completely wrecked his life is without the job that defines it. Her dour new housekeeper chooses that moment to walk out. Pitt is incommunicado in France on a stakeout. Things couldn’t be worse. And then Pitt realizes he has been set up to remove him from London just as some dark political plot is about to unfold.

Complete craziness in Dublin, Dover, London and the Isle of Wight follows. Treason at Lisson Grove is very good. Anne Perry is so reliable.  More than fifty books in four separate series. I wish I could write that fast and that well.

Treason at Lisson Grove: A Charlotte and Thomas Pitt Novel  Anne Perry | Ballantine Books   2011

Dorchester Terrace – Anne Perry

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Thomas Pitt has been promoted to head of the Special Branch and there are some questions—a few in his own mind—about whether he is up to the task. Pitt is a brilliant detective but his new role as Commander requires diplomacy, tact, social graces and an instinct for intrigue. In addition, he will hold the fate of many people in his hands—his decisions will be life and death in circumstances that are often ambiguous.

When he learns of suspicious questions about train crossings from Dover to London and then discovers that a Habsburg is scheduled to take that route on a visit to Kensington Palace, he may or may not be onto the early stages of a disastrous political plot. The Foreign Secretary is contemptuous and other complications create awkward situations that frustrate Pitt and may endanger scores of innocent civilians.

Add to this stew a once fabulous elderly revolutionary, a woman whose valiant and colorful exploits were matched only by the roster of her illustrious lovers during a time of unrest and rebellion in the Austrian Empire. Serafina Montserrat was legendary but now she is frail and forgetful, terrified that her ramblings may reveal secrets that can still incite murder and international mayhem. Serafina lives on Dorchester Terrace, confined to bed and the ministrations of a resentful niece, a faithful servant and visits from old friends and acquaintances—until she dies of a massive overdose of laudanum.

Anne Perry’s Dorchester Terrace reignited my interest in Thomas and Charlotte Pitt. The elevated venue in which the Pitts now solve mysteries is more interesting than the former more mundane puzzles I’ve read with the two sleuths. So I suppose I will once again pull this Anne Perry series off the shelf when I come across a few—Perry is a convincing writer with an obsessive tendency to weave detailed history in and out of her stories. The history in this book, a fictional foreshadowing of the events that triggered World War I, is fascinating and at least as interesting as the plot.    

Dorchester Terrace: A Charlotte and Thomas Pitt Novel   Anne Perry | Ballantine  2012

Buckingham Palace Gardens – Anne Perry

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I’m still not sure why this Victorian murder mystery is named Buckingham Palace Gardens—it takes place mostly inside Buckingham Palace and there doesn’t seem to be much to do with the gardens. But Anne Perry weaves a suitably wicked plot inside the palace walls and her sleuths, Thomas Pitt and his household servant Gracie, do range from the wine cellar to the kitchens to the guest wing and the Queen’s bedchamber in search of a vicious killer.

At a house party to hammer out details of a grand venture to build a railroad the length of Africa and expand the Empire, a collection of diplomats, bankers, visionaries, Africa hands and desperately unhappy upper class people are wined and dined by the Prince of Wales. But festivities come to an abrupt end when the horribly mutilated nude body of a prostitute is found stuffed in the royal linen closet. Pitt and his superior in Special Services are called in to solve the crime. Gracie is added, posing undercover as a new palace maid, to pick up whatever intelligence she can from the servants.

The crime is a tough puzzle. There are inexplicable details, no apparent motive, missing clues that will prove vital and no witnesses. Everyone but the houseguests has a solid alibi and palace security means the culprit must be one of them. Anne Perry uses the claustrophobic setting to explore the connections, frustrations and secret longings of several of the guests. No one seems to be in love with the one they’re with—in fact, most of them are covertly or openly lusting after someone else’s partner. That goes on a bit and gets revisited more than I thought was good for the pace of the story. I got really tired of the interior monologue of one character who was miserable but couldn’t be sure the son-in-law she always meant to marry herself was a worthy object of her affection.

Random clues stay random; Gracie discovers more than the cops; the nobility and the elite are less than admirable. The dead woman isn’t placed and her clothes are never found. Odd comings and goings, blood traces, broken pottery and other seemingly haphazard bits of information don’t add up to a motive or a suspect. And then another corpse is discovered and chunks of the puzzle start to snap into place.

Reasonably good book, hard to guess, although a reader is led astray pretty often with clues that dead end after a while. I’ve liked other Anne Perry books better than this one but it was cleverly done, even if the emo content verged on the obsessive or maudlin from time to time. Buckingham Palace Gardens is one of Perry’s Charlotte and Thomas Pitt mysteries but Charlotte doesn’t make an appearance. Gracie is good though. I wouldn’t mind another mystery with Gracie reprising her role as sleuth—she’s a great character.

Buckingham Palace Gardens: A Charlotte and Thomas Pitt Novel (Charlotte & Thomas Pitt Novels)   Anne Perry | Ballantine Books  2008