Death on Blackheath (Thomas and Charlotte Pitt Series #29)

( 17 )

Overview

NATIONAL BESTSELLER

Anne Perry’s superb New York Times bestselling novels set in the glorious reign of Victoria are loved by readers far and wide. Now, with this new Charlotte and Thomas Pitt mystery, Perry returns us to that charmed era, when wealth and power rule—but where, alas, poisonous corruption lies coiled in the heart of the empire.
 
As commander of the powerful Special Branch, Thomas Pitt has ...

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Death on Blackheath (Thomas and Charlotte Pitt Series #29)

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Overview

NATIONAL BESTSELLER

Anne Perry’s superb New York Times bestselling novels set in the glorious reign of Victoria are loved by readers far and wide. Now, with this new Charlotte and Thomas Pitt mystery, Perry returns us to that charmed era, when wealth and power rule—but where, alas, poisonous corruption lies coiled in the heart of the empire.
 
As commander of the powerful Special Branch, Thomas Pitt has the job of keeping Britain safe from spies and traitors. So there’s no obvious reason why he is suddenly ordered to investigate two minor incidents: the blood, hair, and shards of glass discovered outside the home of naval weapons expert Dudley Kynaston, and the simultaneous disappearance of Mrs. Kynaston’s beautiful lady’s maid.
 
But weeks later, when the mutilated body of an unidentified young woman is found near Kynaston’s home, Pitt realizes that this is no ordinary police investigation. Far from it. Is Kynaston—one of Britain’s most valuable scientists—leading a double life? Is Pitt saddled with a conspiracy so devilishly clever that it will ruin him?
 
A baffled Pitt has never needed his friends more desperately, including his indomitable wife, Charlotte; his canny old colleague Victor Narraway; and his personal drawing-room spy, Lady Vespasia Cumming-Gould. But even these allies may not be able to save Pitt—or Britain.   
 
Only Anne Perry could have created the tense unfolding of plot and counterplot, love and betrayal, scandal and murder that follows. Death on Blackheath is rich with fascinating characters, authentic period flavor, knife’s-edge suspense, and a haunting, unforgettable denouement.
 
Praise for Anne Perry’s most recent Charlotte and Thomas Pitt novels
 
Midnight at Marble Arch
 
“Sweeping and scandalous . . . Perry has perfected a delicate touch.”The New York Times Book Review
 
“Perry is a master at illuminating the wrongs of the Victorian age.”Booklist (starred review)
 
Dorchester Terrace
 
“The always clever Anne Perry infuses Dorchester Terrace with the right amount of intrigue and complex relationships that have made this prolific series one of the finest in modern mystery fiction.”Bookreporter
 
Treason at Lisson Grove
 
“Perry has always done her historical homework on the darker elements of the British ruling class, and she has outdone herself this time.”—The Washington Times
 
Buckingham Palace Gardens
 
“An intricate plot about a murder at the palace [with] an irresistibly appealing Upstairs, Downstairs perspective . . . a fine introduction to Perry’s alluring world of Victorian crime and intrigue.”The New York Times Book Review
 
“Another winner . . . a wonderful cast of characters with many twisting plots.”—Vero Beach Press Journal

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
02/10/2014
A truly unusual mystery distinguishes bestseller Perry’s 29th Victorian puzzle featuring Charlotte and Thomas Pitt (after 2013’s Midnight at Marble Arch). The local police call on Thomas, who’s still adjusting to his relatively new role as head of Special Branch, about the disappearance of a housemaid who lives in a London suburb near Greenwich. Traces of blood and hair have been found in the areaway outside the house where she works, but what triggers the involvement of Special Branch is the fact that she’s employed by Dudley Kynaston, a government official intimately involved with developing Britain’s naval defense systems. Downing Street is alarmed by the prospect of a scandal involving Kynaston. The stakes rise a few weeks later after the discovery of a savagely butchered woman who may be the missing servant; signs indicate that she was killed some time before her body was found. Perry balances plot and character neatly before providing a resolution that few will anticipate. Agent: Donald Maass, Donald Maas Literary Agency. (Apr.)
From the Publisher
Praise for Anne Perry’s most recent Charlotte and Thomas Pitt novels
 
Midnight at Marble Arch
 
“Sweeping and scandalous . . . Perry has perfected a delicate touch.”The New York Times Book Review
 
“Perry is a master at illuminating the wrongs of the Victorian age.”Booklist (starred review)
 
Dorchester Terrace
 
“The always clever Anne Perry infuses Dorchester Terrace with the right amount of intrigue and complex relationships that have made this prolific series one of the finest in modern mystery fiction.”Bookreporter
 
Treason at Lisson Grove
 
“Perry has always done her historical homework on the darker elements of the British ruling class, and she has outdone herself this time.”—The Washington Times
 
Buckingham Palace Gardens
 
“An intricate plot about a murder at the palace [with] an irresistibly appealing Upstairs, Downstairs perspective . . . a fine introduction to Perry’s alluring world of Victorian crime and intrigue.”The New York Times Book Review
 
“Another winner . . . a wonderful cast of characters with many twisting plots.”—Vero Beach Press Journal
Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780345548382
  • Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 3/25/2014
  • Series: Thomas and Charlotte Pitt Series , #29
  • Pages: 320
  • Sales rank: 21,116
  • Product dimensions: 6.50 (w) x 9.40 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

Anne Perry

Anne Perry is the bestselling author of two acclaimed series set in Victorian England: the Charlotte and Thomas Pitt novels, including Midnight at Marble Arch and Dorchester Terrace, and the William Monk novels, including Blind Justice and A Sunless Sea. She is also the author of a series of five World War I novels, as well as eleven holiday novels, most recently A Christmas Hope, and a historical novel, The Sheen on the Silk, set in the Ottoman Empire. Anne Perry lives in Scotland.

Biography

Born in London in October 1938, Anne Perry was plagued with health problems as a young child. So severe were her illnesses that at age eight she was sent to the Bahamas to live with family friends in the hopes that the warmer climate would improve her health. She returned to her family as a young teenager, but sickness and frequent moves had interrupted her formal education to the extent that she was finally forced to leave school altogether. With the encouragement of her supportive parents, she was able to "fill in the gaps" with voracious reading, and her lack of formal schooling has never held her back.

Although Perry held down many jobs—working at various times as a retail clerk, stewardess, limousine dispatcher, and insurance underwriter—the only thing she ever seriously wanted to do in life was to write. (In her '20s, she started putting together the first draft of Tathea, a fantasy that would not see print until 1999.) At the suggestion of her stepfather, she began writing mysteries set in Victorian London; and in 1979, one of her manuscripts was accepted for publication. The book was The Cater Street Hangman, an ingenious crime novel that introduced a clever, extremely untidy police inspector named Thomas Pitt. In this way an intriguing mystery series was born…along with a successful writing career.

In addition to the Thomas and Charlotte Pitt novels, Perry crafts darker, more layered Victorian mysteries around the character of London police detective William Monk, whose memory has been impaired by a coach accident. (Monk debuted in 1990's The Face of a Stranger.) She also writes historical novels set during the First World War (No Graves as Yet, Shoulder the Sky, etc.) and holiday-themed mysteries (A Christmas Journey, A Christmas Secret, etc), and her short stories have been included in several anthologies.

Good To Know

Some fun and fascinating outtakes from our interview with Anne Perry:

The first time I made any money telling a story I was four and a half years old—golden hair, blue eyes, a pink smocked dress, and neat little socks and shoes. I walked home from school (it was safe then) with my lunchtime sixpence unspent. A large boy, perhaps 12 or 13, stopped me. He was carrying a stick and threatened to hit me if I didn't give him my sixpence. I told him a long, sad story about how poor we were—no food at home, not even enough money for shoes! He gave me his half crown—five times sixpence! It's appalling! I didn't think of it as lying, just escaping with my sixpence. How on earth he could have believed me I have no idea. Perhaps that is the knack of a good story—let your imagination go wild, pile on the emotions—believe it yourself, evidence to the contrary be damned. I am not really proud of that particular example!

I used to live next door to people who had a tame dove. They had rescued it when it broke its wing. The wing healed, but it never learned to fly again. I used to walk a mile or so around the village with the dove. Its little legs were only an inch or two long, so it got tired, then it would ride on my head. Naturally I talked to it. It was a very nice bird. I got some funny looks. Strangers even asked me if I knew there was a bird on my head! Who the heck did they think I was talking to? Of course I knew there was a bird on my head. I'm not stupid—just a writer, and entitled to be a little different. I'm also English, so that gives me a second excuse!

On the other hand I'm not totally scatty. I like maths, and I used to love quadratic equations. One of the most exciting things that happened to me was when someone explained non-Euclidean geometry to me, and I suddenly saw the infinite possibilities in lateral thinking! How could I have been so blind before?

Here are some things I like—and one thing I don't:

  • I love wild places, beech trees, bluebell woods, light on water—whether the light is sunlight, moonlight, or lamplight; and whether the water is ocean, rain, snow, river, mist, or even a puddle.

  • I love the setting sun in autumn over the cornstooks.

  • I love to eat raspberries, pink grapefruit, crusty bread dipped in olive oil.

  • I love gardens where you seem to walk from "room to room," with rambling roses and vines climbing into the trees and sudden vistas when you turn corners.

  • I love white swans and the wild geese flying overhead.

  • I dislike rigidity, prejudice, ill-temper, and perhaps above all, self-righteousness.

  • I love laughter, mercy, courage, hope. I think that probably makes me pretty much like most people. But that isn't bad.
  • Read More Show Less
      1. Also Known As:
        Juliet Hulme
      2. Hometown:
        Portmahomack, Ross-shire, U.K
      1. Date of Birth:
        October 28, 1938
      2. Place of Birth:
        Blackheath, London England

    Read an Excerpt

    chapter

    1

    Pitt stood shivering on the steps leading up from the areaway to the pavement and looked down at the clumps of blood and hair at his feet. Splinters and shards of glass lay on the steps below and above him. There was blood on those as well, and some of it had already congealed. The January wind whined across the open stretch towards the gravel pits in the distance.

    “And a maid seems to be missing?” Pitt asked quietly.

    “Yes, and sorry, sir,” the police sergeant said unhappily. His young face was set hard in the gray early morning light. “Thought that seeing whose house it was, like, we should call you straightaway.”

    “You did the right thing,” Pitt assured him.

    They were in Shooters Hill, a very pleasant residential area on the outskirts of London. It was not far from Greenwich, where both the Naval College and the Royal Observatory from which the world took its time stood. The imposing house rising above them into the still, shadowed air was that of Dudley Kynaston, a senior government official deeply involved in matters of naval defense—­a weapons expert of some kind. Violence so very close to his house was of concern to Special Branch, and thus to Pitt as its commander. It was a recent promotion for him and he was still uncomfortable with the extraordinary power it lent him. Perhaps he always would be. It was a responsibility that ultimately he could share with no one. His triumphs would be secret, his disasters appallingly public.

    Looking down at the grim evidence at his feet, he would gladly have changed places with the sergeant beside him. He had been an ordinary young policeman himself when he had been this man’s age, twenty years ago. He had dealt with regular crimes then: theft, arson, occasionally murder—­although not many with any political implications, and certainly none to do with terrible threats of violence towards the country and the government.

    Pitt straightened up. He dressed much more smartly these days, if a little untidily, but even his new woolen coat could not dull the knife-­edge of the wind. He was cold to the bone. The chill was blowing up from the river a mile and a half away, not hard, but with the steady bitterness of the damp. From this height he could see the low-­lying stretches to the east shrouded in mist, and hear the mournful wail of foghorns.

    “Did you say it was reported by the first servant to get up?” he asked. “That must have been hours ago.” He glanced at the wan daylight.

    “Yes, sir,” the sergeant replied. “Scullery maid, slip of a thing, but sharp as a tack. Scared the poor child half out of her wits, all the blood and hair, but she kept her presence of mind.”

    “She didn’t run all the way to the police station in the dark?” Pitt asked incredulously. “It must be a mile and a half at least, from here.”

    “No, sir,” the sergeant responded with some satisfaction in his voice. “Like I said, she’s pretty coolheaded, and all of about thirteen, I would guess. She went in and woke up the housekeeper, a sensible sort of woman. She has the use of the telephone, so after she’d checked that the blood and hair were real, not just from some animals fighting or something similar, she called the police station. If she hadn’t, likely we’d still be on the way here.”

    Pitt looked down at the blood, which could easily enough be human or animal. However, the strands of hair were long, auburn in the lantern light, and could only be human. The thought occurred to him that without the telephone to waken him at his home in Keppel Street on the other side of the river, he would have been having breakfast in his own warm kitchen now, unaware of any of this potential tragedy, and all the grief and complications that could arise from it.

    He grunted agreement, but before he could add anything more he heard rapid footsteps along the pavement. The next moment, Stoker appeared at the top of the areaway. He was the one man in Special Branch that Pitt had learned to trust. After the betrayals that had led to Victor Narraway’s dismissal, he trusted no one who had not earned it. Narraway had been innocent of any wrongdoing and, after desperate effort and cost, had been proved so. But the events in Ireland had still been the end of his career at Special Branch.

    “Morning, sir,” Stoker said with only the slightest curiosity in his voice. He glanced down at the lantern and the patch of stone steps illuminated by it, then at Pitt. He was a lean man with a strong, intelligent face, although it was a bit too bony to be good-­looking, and too dour for charm.

    “There was some sort of scuffle here, and a maid of the house appears to be missing,” Pitt explained. He looked up at the sky then back at Stoker. “Make a note of exactly what you see. Draw it. Then pick up a few samples, in case we need them in evidence one day. Better hurry. If the rain comes it’ll wash that whole lot away. I’m going in to speak to the household.”

    “Yes, sir. Why us, sir? A quarrel, a missing maid—­what’s wrong with the locals doing it?” He gave the sergeant a nod, but the question was directed at Pitt.

    “Householder is Dudley Kynaston—­naval defense . . .” Pitt replied.

    Stoker swore under his breath.

    Pitt smiled, glad not to have caught his exact words, although he probably agreed with them. He turned and knocked on the scullery door, then opened it, walking past the stored bins of vegetables and into the kitchen. Immediately the warmth wrapped around him, along with the rich aromas of food cooking. It was comfortable, everything in order. Polished copper pans hung from hooks, their sheen winking in the lights. Clean china was stacked on the dresser. Shelves were piled neatly with labeled spice jars. Strings of onions and dried herbs hung from the rafters.

    “Good morning,” he said clearly, and three women turned from their tasks to look at him.

    “Mornin’, sir,” they replied almost in unison. The cook was a comfortably rounded woman, at the moment holding a large wooden spoon in her hand. A maid in a starched and lace-­trimmed apron was setting out tea and toast ready to carry upstairs, and another maid was peeling potatoes. She had dark, unruly hair and wide eyes. As soon as he saw her, Pitt knew that she was the one who had gone outside and found the blood and glass. The sleeves of her gray dress were rolled well above her elbows, and her white apron was covered in smuts from relighting the stove.

    The cook regarded Pitt apprehensively, unsure where to place him in the social scale. He wasn’t a gentleman because he had come in through the back door, and he didn’t have the natural arrogance of a man used to the attention of servants. On the other hand, he seemed very sure of himself in a different kind of way, and she could tell at a glance that his overcoat was of excellent quality. In the circumstances, he was probably a policeman of some sort, but he did not look like an ordinary sergeant.

    Pitt gave her a brief smile. “May I speak to your scullery maid, please? I would appreciate it if you could give me a quiet room where we will be without interruption. If you wish the housekeeper to be with her while we speak, that will be acceptable.” He phrased it as a request, but it was an order, and he held her eyes long enough to be certain that she knew that.

    “Yes, sir,” she said, her voice catching as though her mouth were dry. “Dora here can go with her.” She gestured at the startled parlor maid. “I’ll take that tray up to Mrs. Kynaston. Maisie, you go with the policeman an’ tell ’im what ’e needs to know. And you be civil, mind!”

    “Yes, Cook,” Maisie said obediently and led Pitt as far as the door. Then she turned to him, looking him up and down with bright, critical eyes. “You look like you’re froze to the bone. You want a cup o’ tea . .  . sir?”

    Pitt smiled in spite of himself. “Thank you, that would be very nice. Perhaps Dora would bring us a pot?”

    Dora was strongly disapproving. She was a parlor maid, not someone to fetch and carry cups of tea to the likes of policemen and scullery maids, but she could not find the right words to say this, so she nodded in assent.

    Pitt’s smile widened. “Thank you, very helpful of you.” He turned and followed Maisie along the corridor to the housekeeper’s sitting room. The housekeeper herself was no doubt about other duties necessitated by the alarming circumstances.

    Pitt sat down in the armchair by the fire, which was newly lit and not yet warm. Maisie sat upright on the hard-­backed chair opposite him.

    “What time did you come down to the kitchen this morning?” Pitt started right away.

    “ ’Alf past five,” she replied without hesitation. “I raked out the ashes an’ took ’em out ter the ash can in the yard. That was when I found the”—­she gulped—­“the blood . . . an’ that.”

    “So you found the evidence at about quarter to six, would you say?”

    “Yeah . . .”

    “Was there anybody else nearby when you came out?”

    She took a very deep breath, then let it out in a sigh. “Opposite’s boot boy was there, but ’e wouldn’t never ’ave done anything like that. ’Sides, ’e likes Kitty . . . I mean she were nice to ’im. ’E . . . ’e comes from the country an’ ’e misses ’is family, like.” Her dark eyes stared unwaveringly at Pitt.

    “Who’s Kitty?” he asked.

    “Kitty Ryder,” she said as if he should have known. “Mrs. Kynaston’s lady’s maid wot’s missing.”

    “But how do you know for sure she’s missing?” he asked curiously. It was possible that this Kitty had gotten up that early to leave on some specific errand, he thought.

    “ ’Cos she in’t ’ere,” she replied reasonably, but he knew from the defiance in her face and her very slight sniff that she was perfectly aware of being evasive. He decided to leave it for the time being.

    “So your first thought was that the hair on the steps looked like Kitty Ryder’s?” he pressed.

    “Yeah . . . some . . .”

    “And you were afraid something had happened to Kitty?” he suggested.

    “Yeah . . . I . . .” She stopped. She looked into his face and knew that somewhere there was a trap in the question, but she did not look away.

    He heard Dora’s footsteps in the passage. He hurried to his next question, before Dora could come in with the tea and remain as a chaperone, perhaps keeping Maisie from saying everything she’d like to say.

    “So you immediately thought it likely Kitty could have been on the areaway steps sometime in the middle of the previous night, and possibly have had a quarrel that turned violent? Did she have a suitor?”

    “A wot?”

    “A young man?”

    Dora came in through the door balancing a tray with a teapot, milk jug, sugar bowl, and two cups and saucers. She placed it on the table and stood back a little, her face stiff with disapproval.

    Pitt nodded his thanks but kept his eyes on Maisie. “A young man,” he repeated quickly. “I’m guessing Kitty had a young man and she went out at night to meet him. That was why when you saw the blood and hair you thought of her, and checked to see if she was home—­and she wasn’t. Is that right?”

    Maisie stared at him with respect, and a new fear. She nodded silently.

    “Thank you,” Pitt acknowledged. “And did you find Kitty at all? Or any sort of note explaining where she had gone?” He asked that with a deep sense of impending sadness. Of course he already knew the answer.

    Maisie shook her head. “She in’t nowhere.”

    “Would you like a cup of tea?” he asked.

    She nodded, still not taking her eyes from his face.

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    Customer Reviews

    Average Rating 4.5
    ( 17 )
    Rating Distribution

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    Sort by: Showing all of 17 Customer Reviews
    • Anonymous

      Posted March 26, 2014

      I Also Recommend:

      I loved this book from start to finish. The characters were all

      I loved this book from start to finish. The characters were all interesting. The book had a great story line.

      1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

      Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
    • Anonymous

      Posted March 26, 2014

      It is a better Anne Perry novel. I like the William and Charlott

      It is a better Anne Perry novel. I like the William and Charlotte Pitts series better then the Monk series.

      The novel held my attention. Kudos to Anne Perry for explaining some events in past books that effected this book. One problem I have with series is that sometimes I find it impossible to keep up with them and I don't like the fact that the books have to be read in order to understand them.

      I liked the fact that the book was not about a sex crime. I don't like Anne Perry's books about Victorian sex crimes-I feel they are a little smutty.

      While the book held my interest, though I did feel it left some things unexplained.

      I have read about five or six of her novels

      1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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    • Posted May 23, 2014

      more from this reviewer

      Pitt does it again!

      Just finished this one. As usual, Perry has written a well paced book, delving deeply into the human psyche, making her characters flawed enough so as to be understood by anyone. Honor is the foundation upon which this one is built. Good story, good outcome, another stepping stone in Pitt's career. I especially liked that in this book, Perry uses nearly all of the characters we have come to love through the earlier novels. Loved the surprise at the end, the evolution of the relationship between two of my favorite characters. Can't say more, you need to read it for yourself!

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    • Anonymous

      Posted May 9, 2014

      Recommrnded

      This is one of anne perry'S more interesting recent books

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    • Anonymous

      Posted May 3, 2014

      As with all of Perry's books, I enjoyed this one very much. My o

      As with all of Perry's books, I enjoyed this one very much. My only complaint was one of omission--where are Gracie and her husband? In a series like this one, a new novel is very much like a holiday dinner or family reunion. I want EVERYONE to be present, or at least their absence to be explained. It felt rather unnatural for two characters who had played such major parts in previous stories (the Pitts' "life") to suddenly be gone to the point that their names were not even mentioned once. However, the rest of the story moved along nicely and I greatly look forward to the next.

      0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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    • Anonymous

      Posted May 2, 2014

      Highly recommend

      I loved it as usual. Thomas and Charlotte Pitt are wonderful. I am now waiting for the next Monk. Anne Perry can always be depended on to write a good read. I re read almost all of her books. I feel as if The Pitt s and Monk are old friends.

      JoAnn

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    • Anonymous

      Posted April 25, 2014

      very believable situation

      The characters seem very real.

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    • Posted April 22, 2014

      Check it out!

      All of Anne Perry's books are great and this is no exception.

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    • Posted April 21, 2014

      Addicted to the Whole Pitt Series

      I've always enjoyed this series. It is well-written and quite suspenseful. I am jealous of anyone who gets to start at the beginning of the series with so much to look forward.

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    • Anonymous

      Posted April 11, 2014

      DEATH AT BLACKHEATH

      Excellent as usual

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    • Posted March 31, 2014

      Another wonderful Charlotte and Thomas Pitt story. Thomas who is

      Another wonderful Charlotte and Thomas Pitt story. Thomas who is Commander of the Special Branch that oversees the safety of Britain, is called to a gravel pit to examine a body found dead and mutilated to investigate because a high ranking official lives close by and there was hair and broken glass in front of his house and they have a maid missing. They find another body at the pit and Thomas helps the police investigate that murder.
      This story is well written as usual and the characters are just as wonderful as ever. Fans of Anne Perry and the Pitts this is a must read.
      Thanks to Net Galley and Ballantine Books for allowing me to read this book in return for a honest review.

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    • Anonymous

      Posted March 27, 2014

      Wooden toaster

      Yo

      0 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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      Posted May 19, 2014

      No text was provided for this review.

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      Posted March 21, 2014

      No text was provided for this review.

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      Posted April 1, 2014

      No text was provided for this review.

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      Posted April 15, 2014

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      Posted June 11, 2014

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