Monday, August 9, 2010

Rutland Place by Anne Perry

London's most unusual sleuthing team, Inspector Thomas Pitt and his wife, Charlotte, could not stay away from trouble.

When Charlotte learned of her mother's distress in losing a locket with a compromising picture, she did not know it was the beginning of several bizarre events that would end in sudden death.

For hidden behind the sumptuous elegance of Rutland Place were terrible secrets. Secrets so horrifying that only murder could conceal them.

But the dangerous persistence of Charlotte and the quiet patience of Inspector Pitt made it possible to unwind this most macabre and chilling mystery....

It never ceases to amaze me how well Perry conveys my idea of Victorian society - or maybe I should say how well she convinced me with her portrayal. Small worlds where everyone knows everyone else and their worth. Where everyone believes they know each other's secrets but where most manage to conceal strong passions, hidden desires and, sometimes, hideous crimes.

In this fifth installment of the Pitt series, Charlotte and Thomas have moved to a new house with their daughter Jemima. Charlotte is pregnant again, and more worried about the house chores than going about in society, when a letter from her mother requests her presence and her help.

Caroline has misplaced a jewel with a compromising picture and, unsure of what to do but feeling threatened by an invisible presence asks Charlotte to give her some assistance. While on society calls it is apparent that more trinkets have been stolen from the neighbouring houses and the visits give Charlotte the opportunity to get to know her mother's friends and acquaintances. When one of them is found dead they can't help but wonder whether her death is connected to the thefts and whether Caroline could be in danger of a blackmailer or a murderer.

With Thomas being called upon to investigate the murder, and Charlotte working within society to discover the secrets that might have been hidden from a common policeman, it is no wonder that soon some of the secrets start to be revealed.

I particularly liked the ladies detecting skills and how everything seems to fall into place with each new secret uncovered. I also enjoyed the subplot about Caroline's feelings and how it made Charlotte examine her own feelings and look at her mother as a woman. I thought that the explanation for the first missing girl was rather funny - as was Charlotte's discovery of her fate - and it certainly contributed to lighten the mood of an, otherwise, dark and gloomy novel. Some books you close thinking that all will be well afterwards but that is not the case here, there's more pain and despair than actual justice in the end and Charlotte, who uncovers the whole truth, decides to let it rest.

Although I can't disagree with the ending I also can't help but feel that this was the easy way out in terms of a solution. I think that Pitt, unlike Charlotte, wouldn't have let it lie.

Grade: 4/5

1 comment:

  1. It could not be further in time and place from my own writing, but like you, Victorian England (especially Dickens) exerts a strange power over me.