Saturday, March 08, 2008

Pentecost Alley, by Anne Perry

(hb; 1996: sixteenth book in the Charlotte & Thomas Pitt series)

From the inside flap:

"The ritual murder of a prostitute named Ada McKinley in a bedroom on decrepit Pentecost Alley would ordinarily occasion no stir in Victoria's great metropolis. But under the victim's body the police find a Hellfire Club badge inscribed with the name Finlay Fitzjames -- a name that instantly draws Superintendent Thomas Pitt into the case.

"Finlay's father -- immensely wealthy, powerful, and dangerous -- refuses to consider the possibility that his son has been in Ada McKinley's bed. The implication is clear: Pitt is to arrest someone other than Finlay Fitzjames for Ada's demise.

"But Thomas Pitt is not a man to be intimidated, and with the help of his quick-witted wife, Charlotte, and her well-connected friends, he stubbornly pursues his investigation -- one that twists and turns like London's own ancient streets."

Review:

1890. Two months after the treacheries and murders of Traitors Gate, Pitt finds himself working a new, different, but just as difficult case. It's not the Inner Circle -- that group of wealthy, influential, and sometimes corrupt men who hold sway over politics and society -- that Pitt has to fear, but Augustus Fitzjames, Finlay's influential and rich father, and the general public (at one point Pitt comes close to being lynched by a pub full of misguided drunks). With no new clues immediately forthcoming, it appears that the case -- which may involve the possible, wrongful hanging of an innocent man -- things aren't looking very good for Pitt and the police.

Aiding Pitt in his case, of course, is his wife, Charlotte, and Emily, Charlotte's sister (who's feeling discontented and disconnected from friends and family -- everyone's so busy these days). In a more political fashion, Jack Radley (Emily's Parliament-member husband) and Lady Vespasia Cumming-Gould (Charlotte and Emily's great-aunt by marriage) are working their bits, as well.

As in the better novels of the Pitt series, Perry mixes up the elements -- shifting the prominence of certain background characters from one novel to another; varying the numbers of plot shocks and twists; changing up the crimes, their M.O.s, and their areas; alternating between violent and quiet denouements. Perry does this here, and once again comes out with another excellent, explosive entry.

There's not a lot of twists in this one, but the ones that are there are effective. The killer/s isn't/aren't easily seen -- at least, Perry kept this reader re-assessing who the killer (or killers) might be -- and the ending, like most of the other Pitt novel finishes, is a pulse-racing stunner.

This series keeps getting better and better. Check it out.

Followed by Ashworth Hall.

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