Friday, June 15, 2007

Silence in Hanover Close, by Anne Perry

(pb; 1988: ninth book in the Charlotte & Thomas Pitt series)

From the back cover:

“When Inspector Pitt was asked to reopen a three-year-old murder case which had taken place in London’s luxurious Hanover Close, he was all too aware that his superiors wanted him to smooth things over.

“But penetrating the reserve of high society households would take more finesse than Pitt could muster. Enter Charlotte Pitt, his wellborn wife, and her sister, Emily. As the social equals of the inhabitants of the Close, the women would be privy to conversation that would never reach the ears of a mere policeman. What they found was a secret so shocking it would lead to more deaths – and quite possibly Pitt’s own.”

Review:

Perry takes her main characters – Thomas and Charlotte Pitt, Lady Emily Ashworth – into new, and incredibly life-threatening, situations in the ninth entry of her Pitt mystery series.

Six months have elapsed since the deaths of Cardington Crescent. Robert Louis Stevenson’s novel The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde has been published the previous year, and is scaring the willickers out of the reading public. Jemima Pitt, daughter of Thomas and Charlotte, is six; the Pitts’ son, Daniel, is “nearly five” – both of the children are eagerly counting down the days to a niveous Christmas.

Winter is not so kind to Thomas: an old case has been foisted on him to “smooth over”, not solve. Charlotte, ever-curious about her husband’s cases, gets involved, and in doing so, involves Emily, who’s unofficially being courted by the impecunious and rakishly handsome Jack Radley (who first appeared in Cardington Crescent). Emily’s problem is that social etiquette demands that she continue to publicly mourn her husband, George (poisoned in the last book), though she’s ready to move on with her life.

A role-reversal theme infuses Silence with fresh thrills – Charlotte, with the aid of Emily and Jack, goes undercover, adopting the fake identity of Miss Elizabeth Barnaby, a wellborn woman seeking a husband; Emily becomes Amelia Gibson, a maid in the household where a new murder has been committed. And Thomas, framed for a different killing, is arrested.

Another great, twist-filled book in a consistently gripping series, this.

Followed by Bethlehem Road.

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