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BOOK REVIEWS: Death in Devil's Acre by Anne Perry

Monday, October 24, 2016


BLURB:

When a doctor is found brutally murdered, even the neighborhood's most hardened residents are stunned. But three more bodies are found, killed the same inexpert way, and Inspector Thomas Pitt and his wife Charlotte race against time to find the killer, as a treacherous mystery unfolds. No one, not the lowest brand of ruffian or the most established aristocrat, will come out unscathed....


MY THOUGHTS:

I bought a whole pile of Anne Perry’s Victorian-era detective series second-hand for a pittance, and have been reading my way through them in order. Death in the Devil’s Acre is the seventh in the series, and the weakest so far. Although the murder is macabre enough, the denouement felt rushed and unlikely, and the Victorian world was not brought to such vivid and effective life as previous books in the series. That said, it may be the result of reading too many back-to-back! And I have about 15 more to read…


BOOK REVIEW: PARAGON WALK; RESURRECTION ROW; RUTLAND PLACE by Anne Perry

Friday, June 10, 2016

Anne Perry is acknowledged as the Queen of Victorian murder mysteries, with clever plots, engaging characters, and a great deal of period atmosphere. I’ve read a few of her books over the years, and am now reading my way through her first series (The Inspector Pitt Mysteries) in order.

Paragon Walk is the third book in the series, and sees Inspector Pitt and his unconventional upper-class wife Charlotte investigating the rape and murder of a seemingly ordinary young woman. However, dark secrets lurk behind the elegant facades of Paragon Walk, and Charlotte’s relentless digging sees her facing mortal danger.  

In Resurrection Row, a corpse is found sitting at the reins of a hansom cab … a corpse that simply will not stay buried. A really intriguing mystery that tests Inspector Pitt and his wife Charlotte in unexpected ways. 

Rutland Place begins with a series of petty thefts, and escalates to bloody murder and a troubling denouement. Once again, Charlotte uses her upper-class family connections to dig out secrets that her policeman husband Thomas Pitt simply could not access.

This is not a series to read for pace and suspense. Anne Perry is much more interested in the interior lives of her characters, and in probing the hypocrisy of the Victorians’ attitude to gender, class, and sexuality. The mysteries are always intriguing, nonetheless, and most importantly – it’s quite hard to guess the murderer!

BOOK REVIEW: THE CATER ST HANGMAN & CALLANDER SQUARE by Anne Perry

Thursday, March 24, 2016


THE BLURB: THE CATER ST HANGMAN

Careless of both murder and manners, Charlotte Ellison and her sister, two determinedly unconventional young women, ignore Victorian mores and actively join the police investigation, led by young Inspector Thomas Pitt, into the murder of their servant girl. 




THE BLURB: CALLANDER SQUARE

Murders just don’t happen in fashionable areas like Callander Square–but these two have.

The police are totally baffled. Pretty, young Charlotte Ellison Pitt, however, is curious.

Inspector Pitt’s well-bred wife doesn’t often meddle in her husband’s business, but something about this case intrigues her–to the point that staid Charlotte Pitt is suddenly rattling the closets of the very rich, seeking out backstairs gossip that would shock a barmaid, and unearthing truths that could push even the most proper aristocrat to murder.


WHAT I THOUGHT OF THESE BOOKS:

I love a good Victorian murder mystery, and Anne Perry is the queen of the genre.

Her books are full of brooding atmosphere and intriguing mysteries, and I particularly love this series, with the ugly but kind lower-class detective and his outspoken upper-class wife.

The Cater St Hangman is the first in the series, and introduces Inspector Pitt to Charlotte Ellison, when one of her family’s maids is brutally murdered. The denouement is really very clever (though I guessed the murderer), and the romance is subtly done.

Callander Square is the second in the series, and sees Charlotte and her sister, Lady Emily, helping Inspector Pitt with the gruesome murder of two newborn babies. 

The books are not very long, and swiftly paced, so its possible to read on in a couple of hours.

I have read the first few, but there are now 31 books in the whole series, and I plan to read them all. Watch this space. 

HOW MANY ANNE PERRY NOVELS HAVE YOU READ?  WHAT DO YOU LIKE ABOUT THEM?


BOOK LIST: Books I Read in April 2014

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

One of the fascinating things about keeping a record of what I’ve been reading is seeing the patterns which emerge. This month nearly every single novel I read had a historical setting, and half of them were murder mysteries. I’ve always loved a good murder mystery, particularly if it is set in the past. I do not, however, usually read three of them back to back!

Here’s what I’ve read this month: 


Astor Place Vintage – Stephanie Lehmann
This is a really charming, funny book that moves deftly from modern-day New York to the same city streets in 1907. 

Amanda loves old things – especially shoes and clothes – which she hunts down for herself and for her vintage clothes store, Astor Place Vintage. One day she discovers a diary from 1907, sewn into an ancient fur muff. Reading the diary, she finds herself drawn into the life of Olive Westcott, a young lady who lived in New York City one hundred years ago.

Both narrative threads are really interesting and engaging, and the lives of the two women touch in interesting and unexpected ways. Both are young woman trying to forge their own way, and both have various romantic intrigues that add an extra sparkle to the novel. 






Death Comes as Epiphany – Sharan Newman 
I’ve always had a soft spot for a medieval murder mystery, thanks no doubt to all the Cadfael books I read as a teenager. Sharan Newman is a new author for me (always a risk), but I enjoyed this very much and am planning to get the next in the series. 

The story revolves around Catherine LeVendeur, a headstrong and clever young woman who has been sent to the Convent of the Paraclete, famous for its abbess, the fabled Heloise. When a manuscript created by the convent disappears, Heloise asks Catherien for help in searching it out. For Heloise is afraid that the manuscript will be used to harm her one-time lover, Peter Abelard.

The story rolls along swiftly, with lots of interesting historical details, and a really lovely understated romance. Sharan Newman is a medieval scholar, but her knowledge of the period is never allowed to slow down the plot. 



Death on Blackheath – Anne Perry
I always enjoy the work of Anne Perry, who writes atmospheric and psychologically acute murder mysteries set in Victorian Britain. This is No 29 in her Thomas and Charlotte Pitt mystery series – an impressive number! I’ve not read them all, but one day I will sit down and read them all again, back to back, in order, because the growth and change in her major characters is so much an important part of the overarching series narrative. 

This one involves a missing housemaid, the corpses of horribly mutilated women appearing on the heath, and espionage. A brilliant historical murder mystery (but if you haven’t read any other of these, start with Book 1, The Cater Street Hangman.


Elegy for Eddie – Jacqueline Winspear 
Elegy for Eddie is the latest in Jacqueline Winspear’s elegant series of murder mysteries set in 1930s Britain. The books are serious and rather dark in tone, and a great deal of time is spent on the ruminations of the central character, Maisie Dobbs, a lower-class girl who has dragged herself up through the efforts of her own intelligence. At times I wish Jacqueline Winspear would give us more romance, more action, more humour, more sparkle! However, the books are very readable, nonetheless, and the London setting is most atmospheric. 


The Aviator’s Wife - Melanie Benjamin
The Lindberghs were incredibly famous in their day, both for their feats of flying, and for the kidnap and murder of their first child. This beautifully written novel reimagines the life of Anne Morrow Lindbergh from the time of her first encounter with the handsome but controlling aviator Charles Lindbergh to his death. It deals with his infatuation with the Nazis, the terrible months following their boy’s kidnap, and the writing of Anne’s own book, ‘Gift from the Sea’, which I remember reading as a teenager. The Aviator’s Wife is a really moving and powerful novel about one woman’s extraordinary life – I strongly recommend it. 


Meanwhile, much of my reading time continues to be taken up with research on Hitler and Nazi Germany, for the new novel I hope to start writing soon. In fear of boring you, I won’t list every book I’ve read … only the best and most interesting. 

Road to the Wolf’s Lair: German Resistance to Hitler - Theodore S Hamerow
This book is an in-depth examination of the men behind the ill-fated Valkyrie plot to assassinate Hitler, and the events which drove them to take such a drastic and dangerous path. It does assume the reader is well acquainted with the story, so should perhaps be read in conjunction with the famous classic account by Allen Welsh Dulles, Germany’s Underground: The Anti-Nazi Resistance. Dulles was OSS chief in Bern, Switzerland, during World War II and was acquainted with many people in the German Resistance. 


In the Garden of the Beasts: Love, Terror and an American Family in Hitler’s Berlin – Erik Larson
This is an utterly brilliant and beautifully written account of the life of the American Ambassador and his family in Germany in 1933. William E. Dodd was a mild-mannered history professor, with two Bright Young Things as children. On his appointment and subsequent arrival in Berlin, the Dodd family was at first entranced by the new Germany – everything was so clean, so pretty, so efficient, so well-ordered – and Adolf Hitler and his followers were so full of energy and conviction. Gradually, though, their view of Germany darkened. Dodd became convinced that Hitler planned war, but nobody listened to him. In fact, they thought he was a fool. One of the really illuminating things about this book is the way it shows the slow, gradual, and ultimately horrifying realisation of the depths of Hitler’s depravity. Most people in the world really had no way of knowing what was going on … until it was too late. 


I, Pierre Seal: Deported Homosexual – Pierre Seal
I’ve been reading a lot of memoirs from people who lived through the Second World War, but this is one of the most gut-wrenching I’ve encountered. Pierre was a normal teenage boy just discovering his own sexuality when the Germans invaded his homeland of Alsace-Lorraine. He and other young homosexuals were rounded up, tortured, raped, and sent to a concentration camp. The account of the murder of Pierre’s young lover is just horrifying, and the psychological damage it caused Pierre for the rest of his life moved me to tears. The atrocities committed against homosexuals in Hitler’s Third Reich are not widely known, though there has been a movement in recent years to give voice to those that were deported and killed. A chilling read.  


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