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LindaHilton

Linda Hilton

Reader, Writer, Merciless Reviewer and Incurable Romantic

Currently reading

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Reading progress update: I've read 352 out of 352 pages.

Seven Dials - Anne Perry

Only 330 pages of this count toward BL-opoly, since the rest was previews of coming attractions.

 

I was thinking it's been at least ten years since I last read one of the Charlotte and Thomas Pitt mysteries by Anne Perry, but on reflection it's probably closer to 15 or even 20 years.  Time flies, and all that.  Also, this is one of the later books in the series than when I stopped reading them, so there have been developments in the Pitts' status that I've missed, such as the birth of two children and so on.

 

But this didn't take away very much from the understanding of this particular novel.  There were some explanations included, though they were neither extensive nor intrusive.

 

The characters of Thomas and Charlotte are still likeable and admirable -- and believable.  After attempting to read not one but two Dorothy Uhnak crime novels with utterly awful characters, I was very much relieved to welcome myself back into the late Victorian London home of the Pitt family and into the lives of their friends. 

 

I wish Perry had included more details of that London of the 1890s, but perhaps that's a bonus granted to those who read the whole series.  Fortunately, there was not an overabundance of fashion detail; enough, but not too much.

 

Better, however, was the integration of contemporary social and political history into the fabric (pun intended) of the story, which involves the tensions between England with its near monopoly of the cotton spinning and weaving industries and Egypt as the exploited colonial source of the raw cotton.

 

Thomas Pitt is now working for something called the Special Branch -- I missed out on the explanation of this in intervening novels -- and is called in to investigate the murder of a young man in the London garden of a mysterious Egyptian woman.  She is understood to be the mistress of a high-level government figure, Saville Ryerson.  Ryerson represents much of the cotton mill interests around Manchester, and negotiations with Egyptian interests are at a delicate point.  The mill owners and workers want to keep the cost of raw cotton down and the supply of it flowing steadily; the Egyptians are tired of being exploited and want the price to rise along with being able to develop their own textile industries.

 

Pitt, who comes from a working class background, has sympathies on both sides, and this makes him a more interesting character than just your ordinary detective.

 

His wife Charlotte, whose family is much higher on the social ladder than Thomas's, has over the course of the series become something of an amateur detective herself.  In this book, her assistance is sought by a friend of their housemaid to locate a missing brother.  Much of Charlotte's detecting is accomplished while Thomas is sent to Alexandria, Egypt, to investigate the history there of the murder victim as well as the mysterious woman who has been accused of killing him.

 

What I didn't like, and what pulled my rating down significantly, was the clumsy way Perry wove (pun again intended) the seemingly disparate threads together.  And the ending was just not believable.

 

That the missing brother is indirectly tied to the murder was bad enough.  But when the whole mystery is solved, the connections between the Egyptian woman and the British envoy with whom Pitt makes contact in Egypt, between Ryerson and Pitt's supervisor in Special Branch, and so on and so on and so on was more than a little eye-rolling.

(show spoiler)

 

The ending was especially awkward because although it seemed to effectively avoid exposing the most dangerous of several scandals, I couldn't quite believe that

[spoiler]

a dramatic murder-suicide in the courtroom during a sensational murder trial wouldn't in and of itself spark further investigation that would uncover the whole sordid mess that was supposed to be covered up

[/spoiler].

Easy, comfortable reading that might have been enhanced a little if I had read all the preceding books in the series, but they weren't absolutely necessary.