(pb; 1999: nineteenth book in the Charlotte & Thomas Pitt series)
From the back cover:
"The freshly dead body sprawled on the Bedford Square doorstep of General Brandon Balantyne is an affront to every respectable sensibility. The general denies all knowledge of the shabbily dressed victim who has so rudely come to death outside his home. But Superintendant Thomas Pitt cannot believe him. For in the dead man's pockets he finds a rare snuffbox that recently graced the general's study. He must tread lightly, however, lest his investigation trigger a tragedy of immense proportions, ensnaring honorable men like flies in a web. Pitt's clever wife, Charlotte, becomes his full partner in probing this masterpiece of evil, spawned by an amorality greater than they can imagine."
June 1891. Several men in relative power (but not a lot of wealth) are being blackmailed via defamatory letters by someone who isn't making traditional blackmail demands (money, or political votes). One of these men is General Brandon Balantyne (who also appeared in Callander Square and Death in the Devil's Acre). That's not Balantyne's only problem: he's just had a murdered corpse dumped on his front doorstep, with a personal item of Balantyne's stuffed in the corpse's jacket pocket.
One of the other men being blackmailed is Assistant Commissioner Cornwallis, Pitt's immediate boss (who first appeared in Traitors Gate). While Pitt delves into Cornwallis's blackmail situation, Samuel Tellman, Pitt's right hand man (who, progressively, with every new book, gets increasing amounts of point of view time), sets out to discover who dumped the body on Balantyne's front steps -- and if that person is the same person who's blackmailing Balantyne and the others. Inevitably, Pitt's and Tellman's investigations dovetail into one case, one that has a tragic, though not completely unsurprising, finish.
Excellent reading, as are all the Pitt novels. Check them out.
Followed by Half Moon Street.
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