Perry, Anne - 'Dorchester Terrace'
DORCHESTER TERRACE is the latest instalment in the long-running series featuring Thomas Pitt and his growing list of family and friends.
1896 is a time for new beginnings after the events of the last title, BETRAYAL AT LISSON GROVE. Pitt is newly installed as permanent Head of Special Branch and is struggling to win the confidence of his men and (even more crucially) his opposite numbers in government, as well as having to face down his own concerns about whether he has the right temperament for the job.
His mentor and predecessor at Special Branch, Narraway, has been forcibly retired and elevated to the House of Lords, where he is chafing against the boredom and inactivity of this new role. Meanwhile over at the Foreign Office, Pitt's brother-in-law Jack Radley is also newly elevated and keen to do well in his blossoming career. There is even a new maid settling in at the Pitts' residence.
Pitt's first challenge comes when his men begin to suspect an assassination plot against an obscure Austrian Duke on a visit to England. Working without the comfortably verifiable facts and figures of regular police work, Pitt weaves rumours, uncorroborated identifications and leaps of deduction into a picture of an attempt to discredit Special Branch by murdering an innocent man in cold blood. When Lord Tregarron, Radley's chief at the Foreign Office, refuses to act without concrete evidence, Pitt turns to a new ally, Evan Blantyre, for advice about the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Soon the even more frightening prospect of total war comes into view.
Meanwhile, Narraway is whiling away his retirement by investigating the colourful past of an Italian adventuress living in Dorchester Terrace. Serafina is old and growing senile, and is terrified that in her ramblings she may give away dangerous information that could lead to her premature death at the hands of her enemies. Narraway's research soon leads him to tales of the more rebellious fringes of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.
This is the twenty-seventh Pitt novel (they began in 1979), and delivers everything Perry's fans have come to expect. Although the series is getting further and further from its solid investigative roots, it still shows Perry's instinctive grasp of the Victorian period, and provides plenty to occupy all her regular characters. If you're not already a fan, you may wish to begin with the earlier books to get a feel for the series.
Read another review of DORCHESTER TERRACE.
Rich Westwood, England