Monday, May 11, 2015
Book Review: Death on Blackheath by Anne Perry
Author: Anne Perry
Enjoyment Rating: ****
Content Alert: violence, Victorian discussions of extramarital affairs
When servants discover that a maid has gone missing and there's blood and hair on the steps of the London home of Victorian naval expert Dudley Kynaston, Thomas Pitt of Special Branch is called in to protect the interests of Britain. While the local police work to see if the missing maid is indeed dead, Pitt tries to uncover a traitorous conspiracy involving Kynaston.
This is the first of the 29 Charlotte and Thomas Pitt novels I've read, and I was a little surprised to see Charlotte getting top billing, since she seems to be such an accessory in this novel. Apparently, early on in the series, the pair solved crimes together, but these days Charlotte raises their teenage kids. I listened to this book at the same time I listened to the newest Maisie Dobbs book, and although I was incredibly frustrated with Winspear's narrative choices, I can see why it's hard to write a historical novel in which Victorian (or later, in Winspear's case) women have the kinds of career options that modern women have.
That said, I loved Death on Blackheath. Once I understood that Pitt was never going to concern himself with whether or not the maid was actually dead and was only interested in what was going on that concerned national security, the book became downright fascinating. I was very surprised by the ending (although in retrospect, I guess I shouldn't have been), and was impressed by the way that Perry created so many complicated characters (both the suspects and the detectives) and wrote about all of them with a deftness that shows why she is one of the preeminent mystery writers of our day.