Quiet, young inspector Thomas Pitt finds more than he’s bargained for when he investigates the murder of a maid in the upper class Ellison household. The Ellison girls, proper Victorian ladies, are not happy with Pitt’s intense questioning, and the fact that he finds no one to be above suspicion. While some of the household’s composed facades begin to crumble, Pitt finds himself admiring the level-headed and very pretty Charlotte Ellison. But how can he think of a romance between a society girl like her and a lowly police inspector like himself? It seems impossible, especially in the midst of a murder….
Sissy: The first book in this series, “The Cater Street Hangman,” was published in 1979, and the latest, “Midnight at Marble Arch,” was published in September of 2012. With 27 novels in the collection, I believe this is the longest sustained mystery series by a living writer. I don’t know when I read the first one, but they just kept getting better. I like these mysteries because: they are complex–exploring the relationships, pressure, and change associated with an investigation; because the interactions between Pitt and Charlotte are genuine and appealing; because the society and landscape of Victorian London is fascinating and well described by Anne Perry.
Bubby: Just one question here, Sissy. You know all the crap you give me about my love of “cozy mysteries”? How is this series not classified as a cozy mystery? Just because one of the main characters is a policeman? What makes your cozy mysteries better than my cozy mysteries? Huh? Huh?
Sissy: Easy answer, ma petite soeur. Inspector Pitt, by definition, is an inspector of murder mysteries, wherever they occur in London. Murders happen lots more in London than in random villages and burgs, and Thomas Pitt is called to the scene whether he wants to be summoned or not. So different than “owner of bake shop happens upon murders regularly in town of only 20,000 (apparently quite violent) people.” If I was the star of my own cozy mystery, it would have to be about road kill, cuz I seen a lot of thems.
Bubby: Fine. I still say it counts. But I am just the little sewer and you are the big sewer so you must be right! I finished Cater Street Hangman last night in a Nyquil induced haze. I had trouble getting into it at first but by the end I quite enjoyed it. Just as I was beginnning to be incredibly annoyed with the double standards and social politics of Victorian England, dear Charlotte opened her socially inappropriate mouth and made it all better. I love how Anne Perry is able to create social commentary in her characters, just like a modern day Jane Austen. Every time I read something set in this time period I am grateful that I was born now. I fear that unless I had met someone like Pitt that I would have been doomed to an unsavory marriage – I am not known for my diplomacy. Of course, Sissy would have been right there with me!
Sissy: My husband likes me like this. And he might inscribe my favorite phrase on my tombstone: “You’re not the boss of me!”. The thing about the Charlotte and Thomas Pitt mystery series is that each one is unique and refreshing. I enjoy how Thomas is able to use Charlotte’s connections in many different ways to help solve murders. She has dozens of aptly placed relatives (including her sister, Lady Ashworth) who come in quite handy.
Bubby: These mysteries have humor, wit, and personal interaction balanced with just enough dark and creepy and scary to catch the reader’s interest and hold it all the way through the novel. One of the curses of my immense intelligence is that I often know “whodunit” long before the end of the novel. Whilst reading Cater Street Hangman, I was SURE I knew the culprit about 6 times. It wasn’t until the very end, when it became blatantly obvious, that I was anywhere near correct. Well done, Anne Perry. Well done.
Sissy: Yes, with immense intelligence comes immense responsibility, Bubby. I think your responsibility is to take your immense intelligence and make immense amounts of money and share it with me. Thank you very much. Also, I was thinking about sisters with connections and I realized that you have a great connection because you live next to the Sweet Tooth Fairy cupcake shop owner. Now where are my cakebites? Anne Perry has also written a darker mystery series starring Inspector Monk, which are quite good plus several Christmas novellas, children’s books and a more Christian based series about World War I. All worth a look, I’d say.
Bubby: Her life story is extremely interesting as well. If you click on the cover pictured above it will take you to Anne Perry’s website. Also check out her biography which came out last year. Fascinating. Great writer, great series. 4 1/2 bubbles.
Sissy: Anne Perry really gets into the subconscious of her characters and gives you great depth in motivation and why people do what they do and think what they think, all in an entertaining and captivating package. I get the feeling that she truly understands human nature. 4 1/2 bubbles from me too.
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