Southampton Row (Charlotte & Thomas Pitt Novels)

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9780345440037: Southampton Row (Charlotte & Thomas Pitt Novels)

For many years Anne Perry’s magnificent novels have transported millions of readers into the very heart of one of the richest, most vibrant societies the world has ever known: England in the golden ages of Queen Victoria. Gaslight, cobblestones, halls of power, haunts of vice–all the splendor and sordidness of a world that believed the opulence would last forever.

But now, toward the end of her long reign, Victoria’s gold is tarnishing. With a general election fast approaching, a deep rift separates aristocratic Tories from the Liberal opposition. The powerful Inner Circle–a secret society of men sworn to support each other above all other loyalties–is committed to seizing one critical seat in Parliament, a first step towards the achievement of sinister secret ambitions. Passions are so enflamed that Thomas Pitt, shrewd mainstay of the London police, has been ordered to forego his long awaited vacation, not to solve a crime, but to prevent a national disaster.

The Tory candidate is Pitt’s archenemy, Charles Voisey, a ruthless leader in the Inner Circle. The Liberal candidate is Aubrey Serracold, whose wife’s passionate committment to the Socialist agenda may hurt his chances. Equally damaging is her dalliance with spiritualism. Indeed, she is one of the three participants in a late-night séance that becomes the swan song of stylish clairvoyant Maude Lamont. For the next morning, the maid finds Lamont’s brutally murdered body in the séance room of the house on Southampton Row.

To Pitt’s heavy burdens is now added the investigation of this most baffling crime. Meanwhile, his wife, Charlotte, and their children are enjoying the country vacation that Pitt has been denied–unaware that they, too, are deeply endangered by the same fanatical forces hovering over the steadfast Pitt.

In this riveting new Thomas and Charlotte Pitt novel, Anne Perry again proves herself a sorceress who transcends time and change, a master without parallel of the dazzling milieu she has so memorably made her own.

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Review:

Thomas Pitt prefers the grim routine of murder investigations to the riskier probing of Victorian governmental intrigues. Yet Anne Perry's Southampton Row again finds him displaced from his police command, this time to foil the political ambitions of a ruthless republican.

Charles Voisey, leader of a powerful secret society known as the Inner Circle, was defeated by Pitt when he tried (in The Whitechapel Conspiracy) to abolish the British monarchy. Only months later, though, he's back on top, running for a seat in Parliament. Under the auspices of the newly created Special Branch, Pitt is charged with learning whether Voisey has any "unguarded vulnerabilities." The odds against Pitt succeeding are high; Voisey may be "shallow, self-important [and] condescending," but he impresses voters as more charismatic and less controversial than his opponent, Aubrey Serracold, who's also hobbled by his connection to the recent slaying of a popular spiritualist. While Pitt's wife, Charlotte, and their family are safely out of London on vacation, Pitt, aided by the gruff but dogged Inspector Samuel Tellman, his politically astute sister-in law, and Charlotte's resourceful great-aunt Vespasia, seeks to solve the medium's murder before it can derail Aubrey Serracold's campaign.

Perry expertly portrays the volatile British political climate of the 1890s, and by making Pitt and Tellman rivals in their investigation, she further illuminates both men's characters. However, Southampton Row reduces the usually intrepid Charlotte to a hand-wringing irrelevance, and the novel feels too much like an intermediate and inconclusive chapter in a longer story arc. Like Holmes and Moriarty, Thomas Pitt and Charles Voisey appear destined to grapple once more. --J. Kingston Pierce

About the Author:

Among Anne Perry’s other novels featuring Thomas and Charlotte Pitt are The Whitechapel Conspiracy, Half Moon Street, Bedford Square, Brunswick Gardens, and Ashworth Hall. She also writes the popular novels featuring Victorian private investigator William Monk–among them, Funeral in Blue, Slaves of Obsession, The Twisted Root, A Breach of Promise, and The Silent Cry. “Her grasp of Victorian character and conscience still astonishes,” said the Cleveland Plain Dealer. Hundreds of thousands of readers in Europe and America agree.

Anne Perry lives in Scotland. Visit her Web site at www.anneperry.net.

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