Perry, Anne - 'Death on Blackheath'
It is 1897 and Thomas Pitt, Head of Special Branch is called from his bed by Greenwich police who have discovered that a lady's maid is missing from a very important Government naval defence expert's home in Shooters Hill. There is evidence of violence near the house including blood and hair, but no body. Normally, the local police would have been involved but as the owner of the property worked in an important post for the government, Pitt was called in. After some preliminary enquiries it appears that the missing servant is named Kitty Ryder. Pitt interviews the staff to get a full picture of the background as possible before talking to the owner of the house, Dudley Kynaston.
Kynaston who is involved in advanced research concerning submarines, is surprised that a man of Pitt's seniority has been called in. He says that he believes that Kitty has had an argument with a boyfriend and disappeared because of it. Pitt agrees to let the local police handle the investigation further.
Three weeks later, towards the end of January, Pitt is telephoned by his assistant, who says that a body has been discovered in gravel pits in Blackheath which is very close to Shooters Hill. Pitt attends the post-mortem and is horrified to hear that the body was stored somewhere cold for several weeks before being brought to the gravel pit the night before. Another body is deposited in the gravel pit a couple of weeks later which causes some muddying of the waters. Both bodies have items belonging to Dudley Kynaston
Pitt's investigation is, as in previous stories helped by the observations made by his wife Charlotte and he is also advised by his predecessor as Head of Special Branch, Victor Narraway. The story moves on to an almost breathtaking denouement which I found extraordinary. This historic thriller was so atmospheric and intricately plotted right up to the conclusion that I could not put it down.
The story had elements of an Upstairs Downstairs appeal about it and although Anne Perry has written over twenty previous books in this Thomas Pitt series it is not a handicap to the new reader as the author gives full explanations. Anne Perry has written many books apart from this series but there is a freshness about her writing which makes it truly exceptional and I was gripped until the final page. DEATH ON BLACKHEATH was one of the best books I've read this year and I cannot recommend it highly enough.
Terry Halligan, England