Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Paragon Walk, by Anne Perry

(hb; 1981: third book in the Charlotte & Thomas Pitt series)

From the inside flap:

“The third in a series of delightful Victorian mysteries, Paragon Walk once again pits the highly unconventional detective team of Charlotte Ellison Pitt, a young woman who shocked her proper upper-class family by marrying far beneath their level, and her husband, a police inspector, against an unpleasant and baffling crime. In the posh London Street of Paragon Walk, where Charlotte's sister Emily, Lady Ashworth, lives in well-mannered splendor, an unspeakable crime has occurred: a young woman has been brutally raped and murdered.

“As Inspector Pitt attacks the mystery through the front doors of the indignant households on Paragon Walk, Charlotte, with Emily's help, undertakes her own investigation inside the polite, subtly charged world of formal calls, soirees, and garden parties. As the elegant masks of the well-born suspects begin to slip under this combined scrutiny, it becomes appallingly clear that something very ugly lurks behind the handsome facades of Paragon Walk – something that well lead to still more scandal and murder.”

Review:

Paragon Walk has a business-as-usual feel, with a few minor plot variations, but otherwise it's not much different than the two previous Pitt novels. This is offered as a fact, not a criticism, for the third novel is as strong as The Cater Street Hangman and Callander Square.

Thomas and Charlotte now have a daughter, Jemima, who's one and a half years old – the same amount of time that's passed since the last mystery. Emily is pregnant, just as her socially-smart marriage to George is hitting a rough patch. New, possibly more disturbing, elements have entered the murder scenario, also, chief among them rape.

Perry's well-mined theme of facade-busting and nasty not-so-little secrets is explored again, so in that regard, it seems that Perry's found herself a comfortable writing groove, one that doesn't seem to challenge her, or her regular readers.

It's a recommendable read, however, as Perry is a dependably excellent writer, with an ear for incisive wit, murderous impulses and clever love. The ending is impressively Gothic and cliff-hanger-ish, and the killer isn't easily figured out, at least not early on.

Followed by Resurrection Row

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