Reviews provided by Syndetics
Library Journal Review
YA-Perry opens this volume of her popular series as Superintendent Pitt and his assistant Telman begin to investigate the murder of a homeless man left on General Balantyne's doorstep. Evidence found at the scene points to the general as the murderer. Gradually, it develops that he and many other influential men in Victorian London are receiving notes threatening blackmail. Since the general is a friend of Pitt's wife, she and her Aunt Vespasia also work to clear his name. Clues are brought to light as they interview many individuals. Perry realistically brings out the contrasts in the lifestyles of both the rich and the poor of the time period. However, while the sleuths have distinct personalities of their own, it is difficult to separate the many other individuals. In addition, while many of the victims know that the others have also received threats, none can remember what it is that they all have in common. This seems improbable. Purchase for fans of the series.-Claudia Moore, W. T. Woodson High School, Fairfax, VA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Publishers Weekly Review
History, social commentary and suspense blend artfully in this 19th installment (after Brunswick Gardens, 1998) in Perry's popular series featuring London Police Superintendent Thomas Pitt and his adventurous wife, Charlotte. The mystery arises when a body is found outside the home of respectable General Brandon Balantyne (who appeared in two earlier Pitt novels). Pitt and Sergeant Tellman, whose class prejudices are challenged during the investigation, are mystified by the body's identity and the motive for the murder. Their diggings lead them to a parallel case, when Pitt discovers that six honorable men, including Balantyne and Assistant Police Commissioner Cornwallis, are being blackmailed. Perry uses the historical Tranby Croft gambling scandal involving the Prince of Wales as backdrop, highlighting how even the imputation of wrongdoing can tarnish someone's good name. To find the blackmailer, Pitt seeks a common bond among the accused. The careful reader may spy that link before Pitt does, but will nonetheless be swept along by the narrative's rush and engaged by its attention to period detail. Aiding Pitt is a cast of smart, well-drawn female characters: Charlotte, whose social connections afford her access to society's upper crust; Gracie, the Pitts' uneducated but no-nonsense maid; and Lady Vespasia Cumming-Gould, Charlotte's worldly-wise relation, who dominates the narrative once she joins the investigation. Pitt solves the case based on a clever red herring, uncovering the murderer in a quick, horrifying finale. Yet again, Perry delivers an astute and gripping examination of life behind Victorian England's virtuous facade. Mystery Guild main selection; author tour. (Apr.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
After 30 books, Perry might be forgiven if her stories began to get a little stale. No need to worry. Perry's latest, a riveting period mystery featuring London police superintendent Thomas Pitt and his wife, Charlotte, is as fresh as if it were her first effort. The body of a local peddler turns up on the Bedford Square doorstep of retired general Brandon Balantyne. As Pitt investigates, he learns that Balantyne has received an anonymous letter threatening blackmail. But how does the threat relate to the peddler's death? Pitt soon uncovers a plot to blackmail not only Balantyne but also some of the city's other prominent citizens, Pitt's own boss among them. Pitt assumes there's more to the blackmail plot than meets the eye, and the peddler's death seems to hold a significant clue. Plodding through interviews with the intended victims, sifting through paperwork, talking to the peddler's acquaintances, Pitt slowly edges toward the answer. Perry's expert presentation of Victoriana, plus a goodly dose of suspense, makes this turn-of-the-century police procedural a must-have. Interestingly, the story makes clear that in Victorian London, a man's good name and moral character were his proudest possessions--an ironic point in today's jaded climate. --Emily Melton
Kirkus Book Review
The latest grand address to suffer the blight of Victorian crime is General Brandon Balantyne's house in Bedford Square, whose doorstep, one early morning in 1891, is adorned with a cooling corpse. The general denies knowing the dead man, but although Bow Street commander William Pitt (Brunswick Gardens, 1998, etc.)'who's had run-ins with Balantyne and his titled, frigid wife before'knows enough to keep a tradesman's distance from the Balantynes, Pitt's wife Charlotte, an old friend of the general's, wastes no time in tying him in to a ring of blackmail victims. Each of the half-dozen victims has been threatened with the disclosure of a fictitious secret; the only thing demanded of any of them has been some symbolic trifle, like the general's snuffbox that Pitt found on the newest corpse; and one victim who submissively sent in his bauble found his imaginary secret disclosed and his comfortable life ruined anyway. Clearly, then, this is no ordinary extortion plot, and even when Pitt finds the common ground that connects all the victims, he still can't figure out the blackmailer's motive or identity, or even why he left a dead body on the doorstep in Bedford Square. Perry hammers on her tantalizing mysteries effectively enough to produce her sleekest, fastest-moving book in years. Only the solution, coming a few quick breaths before the last page, is a letdown. (Mystery Guild main selection; author tour)