Friday, August 17, 2007

Bethlehem Road, by Anne Perry

(pb; 1990: tenth book in the Charlotte & Thomas Pitt series)

From the back cover:

"The gentleman tied to the lamppost on Westminster Bridge is most elegantly attired -- fresh boutonere, silk hat, white evening scarf -- and he is quite, quite dead, as a result of his thoroughly cut throat.

"Why should anyone kill Sir Lockwood Hamilton, that kindest of family men and most conscientious member of Parliament? Before Inspector Thomas Pitt can even speculate on the reasons, a colleague of Sir Lockwood's meets the same fate in the same spot.

"Public indignation is boundless, and clever Charlotte Pitt, Thomas's well-born wife, can't resist helping her hard-pressed husband, scouting society's drawing rooms for clues to these appalling crimes. Meanwhile, the Westminster Bridge Cutthroat stalks still another victim..."


One of the more unpredicable entries in the Pitt series, Bethlehem Road maintains the charm and intrigue of Perry's earlier books. It's not one of my favorites because it's feels different -- perhaps it's because Emily Ashworth, who's set to be married to Jack Radley (who first appeared in Cardington Crescent), isn't in the novel much, and she, like many of the other regular characters, has come to seem less like a book character and more like an old friend to me. Or maybe it's because I was afraid that Lady Vespasia Cumming-Gould, over eighty years old, was going to die this time out -- she's been ailing since Silence in Hanover Close, and I've grown quite fond of her character, also.

Anyhow, the killer -- or killers -- is/are not obvious, and the situation is increasingly political (Irish Home Rule and women's suffrage are angry buzzwords of the day, 1888), lending a "wild card" element to the plot.

The ending isn't one of the better ones in the series (though it doesn't quite fizzle out, either), which made this an average -- that is to say, well-written, as Perry's work rarely disappoints -- Victoriana excursion.

Worth checking out, this.

Followed by Highgate Rise.

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