Southampton Row (Thomas and Charlotte Pitt Series #22)by Anne Perry
For many years Anne Perry’s magnificent novels have transported millions of readers into the very heart of one of the richest, most vibrant societies the world has ever known: England in the golden ages of Queen Victoria. Gaslight, cobblestones, halls of power, haunts of vice–all the splendor and sordidness of a world that believed the opulence would last forever.
But now, toward the end of her long reign, Victoria’s gold is tarnishing. With a general election fast approaching, a deep rift separates aristocratic Tories from the Liberal opposition. The powerful Inner Circle–a secret society of men sworn to support each other above all other loyalties–is committed to seizing one critical seat in Parliament, a first step towards the achievement of sinister secret ambitions. Passions are so enflamed that Thomas Pitt, shrewd mainstay of the London police, has been ordered to forego his long awaited vacation, not to solve a crime, but to prevent a national disaster.
The Tory candidate is Pitt’s archenemy, Charles Voisey, a ruthless leader in the Inner Circle. The Liberal candidate is Aubrey Serracold, whose wife’s passionate committment to the Socialist agenda may hurt his chances. Equally damaging is her dalliance with spiritualism. Indeed, she is one of the three participants in a late-night séance that becomes the swan song of stylish clairvoyant Maude Lamont. For the next morning, the maid finds Lamont’s brutally murdered body in the séance room of the house on Southampton Row.
To Pitt’s heavy burdens is now added the investigation of this most baffling crime. Meanwhile, his wife, Charlotte, and theirchildren are enjoying the country vacation that Pitt has been denied–unaware that they, too, are deeply endangered by the same fanatical forces hovering over the steadfast Pitt.
In this riveting new Thomas and Charlotte Pitt novel, Anne Perry again proves herself a sorceress who transcends time and change, a master without parallel of the dazzling milieu she has so memorably made her own.
“Fast moving and utterly engrossing . . . Perry’s Victorian novels attain the societal sweep of Trollope or Thackeray; she has absolute command over both political history and the small fascinating details of everyday life.”—Booklist (starred review)
“A mystery—a very good one . . . Status, rights, love, and duty are hallmarks of Perry’s narratives. Here, they are brought into finer focus, allowing their inherent drama to carry the story forward.”—Minneapolis Star Tribune
“Perry skillfully explores the gap between the Victorians’ love of knowledge and their deepening suspicion that their way of life cannot continue.”—The Boston Globe
“Delicious political treachery . . . [Perry’s] grasp of the economic and social forces of the period is masterly.”—Chicago Sun-Times
Read an Excerpt
By Anne Perry
Ballantine Books "I'm sorry," Assistant Commissioner Cornwallis said quietly, his face a mask of guilt and unhappiness. "I did everything I could, made every argument, moral and legal. But I can't fight the Inner Circle."
Copyright © 2002 Anne Perry.
All rights reserved.
Pitt was stunned. He stood in the middle of the office with the sunlight splashing across the floor and the noise of horses' hooves, wheels on the cobbles and the shouts of drivers barely muffled beyond the window. Pleasure boats plied up and down the Thames on the hot June day. After the Whitechapel conspiracy he had been reinstated as superintendent of the Bow Street police station. Queen Victoria herself had thanked him for his courage and loyalty. Now, Cornwallis was dismissing him again! "They can't," Pitt protested. "Her Majesty herself ..."
Cornwallis's eyes did not waver, but they were filled with misery. "They can. They have more power than you or I will ever know. The Queen will hear what they want her to. If we take it to her, believe me, you will have nothing left, not even Special Branch. Narraway will be glad to have you back." The words seemed forced from him, harsh in his throat. "Take it, Pitt. For your own sake, and your family's. It is the best you'll get. And you're good at it. No one could measure what you did for your country in beating Voisey at Whitechapel."
"Beating him!" Pitt said bitterly. "He's knighted by the Queen, and the Inner Circle is still powerful enough to say who shallbe superintendent of Bow Street and who shan't!"
Cornwallis winced, the skin drawn tight across the bones of his face. "I know. But if you hadn't beaten him, England would now be a republic in turmoil, perhaps even civil war, and Voisey would be the first president. That's what he wanted. You beat him, Pitt, never doubt it ... and never forget it, either. He won't."
Pitt's shoulders slumped. He felt bruised and weary. How would he tell Charlotte? She would be furious for him, outraged at the unfairness of it. She would want to fight, but there was nothing to do. He knew that, he was only arguing with Cornwallis because the shock had not passed, the rage at the injustice of it. He had really believed his position at least was safe, after the Queen's acknowledgment of his worth.
"You're due a holiday," Cornwallis said. "Take it. I'm ... I'm sorry I had to tell you before."
Pitt could think of nothing to say. He had not the heart to be gracious.
"Go somewhere nice, right out of London," Cornwallis went on. "The country, or the sea."
"Yes ... I suppose so." It would be easier for Charlotte, for the children. She would still be hurt but at least they would have time together. It was years since they had taken more than a few days and just walked through woods or over fields, eaten picnic sandwiches and watched the sky.
Charlotte was horrified, but after the first outburst she hid it, perhaps largely for the children's sake. Ten-and-a-half-year-old Jemima was instant to pick up any emotion, and Daniel, two years younger, was quick behind. Instead she made much of the chance for a holiday and began to plan when they should go and to think about how much they could afford to spend.
Within days it was arranged. They would take her sister Emily's son with them as well; he was the same age and was keen to escape the formality of the schoolroom and the responsibilities he was already learning as his father's heir. Emily's first husband had been Lord Ashworth, and his death had left the title and bulk of the inheritance to their only son, Edward.
They would stay in a cottage in the small village of Harford, on the edge of Dartmoor, for two and a half weeks. By the time they returned the general election would be over and Pitt would report again to Narraway at Special Branch, the infant service set up largely to battle the Fenian bombers and the whole bedeviled Irish question of Home Rule, which Gladstone was fighting all over again, and with as little hope of success as ever.
"I don't know how much to take for the children," Charlotte said as if it were a question. "How dirty will they get, I wonder ..."
They were in the bedroom doing the last of the packing before going for the midday train south and west.
"Very, I hope," Pitt replied with a grin. "It isn't healthy for a child to be clean ... not a boy, anyway."
"Then you can do some of the laundry!" she replied instantly. "I'll show you how to use a flatiron. It's very easyjust heavyand tedious."
He was about to retaliate when their maid, Gracie, spoke from the doorway. "There's a cabbie 'ere with a message for yer, Mr. Pitt," she said. "'E give me this." She offered him a piece of paper folded over.
He took it and opened it up.
Pitt, I need to see you immediately. Come with the bearer of this message. Narraway.
"What is it?" Charlotte asked, a sharp edge to her voice as she watched his expression change. "What's happened?"
"I don't know," he replied. "Narraway wants to see me, but it can't be much. I'm not starting back with Special Branch for another three weeks."
Naturally she knew who Narraway was, although she had never met him. Ever since her first encounter with Pitt eleven years ago, in 1881, she had played a lively part in every one of his cases that aroused her curiosity or her outrage, or in which someone she cared about was involved. In fact, it was she who had befriended the widow of John Adinett's victim in the Whitechapel conspiracy and finally discovered the reason for his death. She had a better idea than anyone else outside Special Branch of who Narraway was.
"Well, you'd better tell him not to keep you long," she said angrily. "You are on holiday, and have a train to catch at noon. I wish he'd called tomorrow, when we'd have been gone!"
"I don't suppose it's much," he said lightly. He smiled, but the smile was a trifle downturned at the corners. "There've been no bombings lately, and with an election coming at any time there probably won't be for a while."
"Then why can it not wait until you come back?" she asked.
"It probably can." He shrugged ruefully. "But I can't afford to disobey him." It was a hard reminder of his new situation.
He reported directly to Narraway and he had no recourse beyond him, no public knowledge, no open court to appeal to, as he had had when a policeman. If Narraway refused him there was nowhere else to turn.
"Yes ..." She lowered her eyes. "I know. Just remind him about the train. There isn't a later one to get there tonight."
"I will." He kissed her swiftly on the cheek and then turned and went out of the door and down the stairs to the pavement, where the cabbie waited for him.
"Right, sir?" the cabbie asked from the box.
"Yes," Pitt accepted. He glanced up at him, then climbed into the hansom and sat down as it started to move. What could Victor Narraway want from him that could not as easily wait until he reported back in three weeks? Was it just an exercise of his power, to establish again who was master? It could hardly be for his opinion; he was still a novice at Special Branch work. He knew almost nothing about the Fenians; he had no expertise in dynamite or any other explosives. He knew very little about conspiracies in quarrel, nor in honesty did he want to. He was a detective, a policeman. His skill was in solving crimes, unraveling the details and the passions of individual murder, not the machinations of spies, anarchists and political revolutionaries.
He had succeeded brilliantly in Whitechapel, but that was over now. All that they would ever know of the truth rested in silence, darkness and bodies decently buried to hide the terrible things that had happened to them. Charles Voisey was still alive, and they could prove nothing against him. But there had been a kind of justice. He, secret hero of the movement to overthrow the throne, had been maneuvered into seeming to have risked his life to save it. Pitt smiled and felt his throat tighten with grief as he remembered standing beside Charlotte and Vespasia in Buckingham Palace as the Queen had knighted Voisey for his services to the Crown. Voisey had risen from his knees too incensed with rage to speakwhich Victoria had taken for awe, and smiled indulgently. The Prince of Wales had praised him, and Voisey had turned and walked back past Pitt with a hatred in his eyes like the fires of hell. Even now Pitt felt a cold knot tighten in his stomach remembering it.
Yes, Dartmoor would be good: great, clean, wind-driven skies, the smell of earth and grass on unpaved lanes. They would walk and talk together, or simply walk! He would fly kites with Daniel and Edward, climb some of the tors, collect things, watch the birds or animals. Charlotte and Jemima could do whatever they wished, visit people, make new friends, look at gardens, or search for wildflowers.
The cab stopped. "'Ere y'are sir," the driver called. "Go right in. Gentleman's expecting yer."
"Thank you." Pitt climbed out and walked across the pavement to the steps leading up to a plain wooden door. It was not the shop in the back room of which he had found Narraway in Whitechapel. Perhaps he moved around as the need directed? Pitt opened the door without knocking and went in. He found himself in a passage which led to a pleasant sitting room with windows onto a tiny garden, which was mostly crowded with overgrown roses badly in need of pruning.
Victor Narraway was sitting in one of the two armchairs, and he looked up at Pitt without rising. He was a slender man, very neatly dressed, of average height, but nevertheless his appearance was striking because of the intelligence in his face. Even in repose there was an energy within him as if his mind never rested. He had thick, dark hair, now liberally sprinkled with gray, hooded eyes which were almost black, and a long, straight nose.
"Sit down," he ordered as Pitt remained on his feet. "I have no intention of staring up at you. And you will grow tired in time and start to fidget, which will annoy me."
Pitt put his hands in his pockets. "I haven't long. I'm going to Dartmoor on the noon train."
Narraway's heavy eyebrows rose. "With your family?"
"Yes, of course."
"There is nothing to be sorry about," Pitt replied. "I shall enjoy it very much. And after Whitechapel I have earned it."
"You have," Narraway agreed quietly. "Nevertheless you are not going."
"Yes I am." They had known each other only a few months, worked very loosely together on just the one case. It was not like Pitt's long relationship with Cornwallis, whom he liked profoundly and would have trusted more than any other man he could think of. He was still unsure what he felt about Narraway, and certainly he did not trust him, in spite of his conduct in Whitechapel. He believed Narraway served the country and was a man of honor according to his own code of ethics, but Pitt did not yet understand what they were, and there was no bond of friendship between them.
Narraway sighed. "Please sit down, Pitt. I expect you to make this morally uncomfortable for me, but be civil enough not to make it physically so as well. I dislike craning my neck to stare up at you."
"I am going to Dartmoor today," Pitt repeated, but he did sit down in the other chair.
"This is the eighteenth of June. Parliament will rise on the twenty-eighth," Narraway said wearily, as if the knowledge was sad and indescribably exhausting. "There will be a general election immediately. I daresay we shall have the first results by the fourth or fifth of July."
"Then I shall forfeit my vote," Pitt replied. "Because I shall not be at home. I daresay it will make no difference whatever."
Narraway looked at him steadily. "Is your constituency so corrupt?"
Pitt was slightly surprised. "I don't think so. But it has been Liberal for years, and general opinion seems to be that Gladstone will get in, but with a narrow majority. You haven't called me here three weeks before I start in order to tell me that!"
"Not even approximately!" Pitt started to rise.
"Sit down!" Narraway ordered with a suppressed rage making his voice cut like a blow.
Pitt sat more out of surprise than obedience.
"You handled the Whitechapel business well," Narraway said in a calm, quiet voice, leaning back again and crossing his legs. "You have courage, imagination and initiative. You even have morality. You defeated the Inner Circle in court, although you might have thought twice had you known it was they you were against. You are a good detective, the best I have, God help me!" he replied. "Most of my men are more used to explosives and assassination attempts. You did well to defeat Voisey at all, but your turning of the murder on its head to have him knighted for saving the throne was brilliant. It was the perfect revenge. His republican friends regard him as the arch-traitor to the cause." The merest smile touched Narraway's lips. "He was once their future president. Now they wouldn't allow him to lick stamps."
It should have been the highest praise, yet looking at Narraway's steady, shadowed eyes, Pitt felt only awareness of danger.
"He will never forgive you for it," Narraway observed as casually as if he had done no more than remark the time.
Pitt's throat tightened so his answer was scratchy. "I know that. I had never imagined he would. But you also said at the end of the affair that it would be nothing so simple as physical violence." His hands were stiff, his body cold, not for himself but for Charlotte and the children.
"It won't be," Narraway said gently. For an instant there was a softness in his face, then it was gone again. "But he has turned your stroke of genius to his own use, that is his genius."
Pitt cleared his throat. "I don't know what you mean."
"He is a hero! Knighted by the Queen for saving the throne," Narraway said, uncrossing his legs and leaning forward, a sudden passion of bitterness twisting his face. "He is going to stand for Parliament!"
Pitt was stunned. "What?"
"You heard what I said! He is standing for Parliament, and if he wins he will use the Inner Circle to rise very quickly to high office. He has resigned his place on the Appeal Court Bench and taken to politics. The next government will be Conservative, and it will not be long in coming. Gladstone won't last. Apart from the fact that he is eighty-three, Home Rule will finish him." His eyes did not move from Pitt's face. "Then we will see Voisey as Lord Chancellor, head of the Empire's judiciary! He will have the power to corrupt any court in the land, which means in the end, all of them."
It was appalling, but Pitt could already see how it was possible. Every argument died on his lips before he spoke it.
Narraway relaxed fractionally, an easing of the muscles so slight it was barely visible. "He's standing for the South Lambeth seat."
Pitt quickly thought of his London geography. "Wouldn't that take in Camberwell, or Brixton?"
"Both." Narraway's eyes were steady. "And yes, it's a Liberal seat, and he's Conservative. But that doesn't ease my mind, and if it eases yours, then you're a fool!"
"It doesn't," Pitt said coldly. "He'll have a reason. There'll be somebody he can bribe or intimidate, some place where the Inner Circle has its power he can use. Who is the Liberal candidate?"
Narraway nodded very slowly, still looking at Pitt. "A new man, one Aubrey Serracold."
Pitt asked the obvious. "Is he Inner Circle, and will stand down at the last moment, or throw the election in some other way?"
"No." Narraway said it with certainty, but he did not explain how he knew. If he had sources somewhere deep inside the Inner Circle, he did not disclose them, even to his own men. Pitt would have thought less of him if he had. "If I could see where it was coming from, or how, I wouldn't need you to stay in London and watch," Narraway continued. "Throwing you out of Bow Street may prove to be one of their greatest mistakes." It was a reminder of their power, and the injustice against Pitt. Precise knowledge of what he was saying sparkled hard and bright in his eyes, and he made no pretense to hide it. They both knew he did not need to.
Excerpted from SOUTHAMPTON ROW by Anne Perry. Copyright © 2002 by Anne Perry. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Meet the Author
ANNE PERRY is the bestselling author of the World War I novels No Graves as Yet, Shoulder the Sky, Angels in the Gloom, At Some Disputed Barricade, and We Shall Not Sleep; as well as five holiday novels: A Christmas Journey, A Christmas Visitor, A Christmas Guest, A Christmas Secret, and A Christmas Beginning. She is also the creator of two acclaimed series set in Victorian England. Her William Monk novels include Dark Assassin, The Shifting Tide, and Death of a Stranger. The popular novels featuring Thomas and Charlotte Pitt include Long Spoon Lane, Seven Dials, and Southampton Row. Her short story "Heroes" won an Edgar Award. Anne Perry lives in Scotland. Visit her website at anneperry.net.
- Portmahomack, Ross-shire, U.K
- Date of Birth:
- October 28, 1938
- Place of Birth:
- Blackheath, London England
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
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Who says history can't be fun? Perry is brilliant in exposing the pros and cons of the 1890 political views and their ramifications. The analogies to today's controversies are astounding. Britain's vast empire serves to provide huge markets for its working class while demanding an armed forces to preserve it. Working conditions are appalling but as awful as they are, perhaps they are better than no work at all. What should be the role of women? How does the Church figure into the daily lives of its members and how do the clergy deal with Darwinism and their own personal beliefs? Mixed into the fabric of the history is a fabulous whodunit with all kinds of typical twists and turns of which Perry is notoriously famous. Her themes of family loyalty versus betrayal in order to preserve moral and ethical rightness, flourish again. Just when you think you've read her best book (White Chapel Conspiracy) she outdoes herself. I believe this was her best Pitt book so far. Although I recommend starting with book 1 and not stopping until you get to 23!
In late nineteenth England, it is not the monarchy or parliament who rules the country but a clandestine organization known to only a few as the Inner Circle. Thomas Pitt, a Metropolitan Street policeman, once tangled with a member of that group and for his effort was fired from his position as the superintendent of the Bow Street Station. When he was able to neutralize his enemy Queen Victoria reinstated him. Unfortunately, his enemy was able to hold on to his power and thus pulled strings to force the transfer of Pitt from Bow Street to Special Branch, an organization involved in guarding England¿s from her enemies. Pitt is assigned the task of neutralizing his old enemy who is running for a seat in the House of Commons. The former superintendent knows that if he wants to keep his wife and children safe, he must succeed in his assignment and do it before his enemy has a more powerful base than he already has. Anne Perry, the leading writer of Victorian mysteries, has published her best work to date in SOUTHAMPTON ROW. It is as much a political thriller as it is a Victorian historical mystery. The details of the era are so detailed and colorful, that it feels as if the author actually lived in that period. The mystery is complex and creative but the most fascinating part of the book is the political picture Perry paints for her audience that turn a potent tale into a masterpiece. Harriet Klausner
Love this series and the Pitts series. Hven't tried WWI. Recomend to anyone who loves Lord Peter Wimsey and Albert Campion.
'Southampton Row', English author Anne Perry's latest novel in the Inspector Pitt series places the intrepid Inspector in a setting that leaves the reader intrigued and troubled. It is Pitt's success in 'The Whitechapel Conspiracy' that now threatens him and his family. Charles Voisey, the Inspector's Whitechapel nemesis reappears to haunt Pitt again. Thanks to the machinations of the Inner Circle, Pitt loses his position at the Bow Street Station and is sent to work at the Special Branch Office, a division within the Police Force set up to investigate terrorist activities. The terrorist in Pitt's life turns out to be Voisey who, as part of his continuing effort to republicanize English politics, campaigns for Parliament. Pitt is assigned to shadow Voisey and determine his weaknesses. The campaign and Voisey's connection to the murder of a spiritual medium in Southampton Row threaten Pitt professionally and personally. The new setting involves more than just the detection of a murderer, it involves the mind games played in the web of deception woven by the Inner Circle and all those forced to deal with it. In 'Southampton Row', Inspector Pitt is compelled to think and act like those he despises most, the members of the super-secret Inner Circle. In the process, Pitt develops more than his usual sincere search for truth and justice, he demonstrates a newfound ability to think like Voisey. This leaves the reader wondering if the good Inspector is now walking the same path as Voisey and descending into a pit of deception. Has he, through his work, become contaminated with the characteristics of those he despises most? What price truth? Honor? The safety of loved ones? Will Thomas compromise his principals to protect Charlotte and their children? The novel forces the reader to grapple with these same questions of conscience. 'Southampton Row' is Perry's most compelling novel to date. It is a must-read for fans of Thomas and Charlotte Pitt. Best of all, this reader sees several potential story lines for future books in this series.
Anne Perry allows her readers to feel as though they were there with the characters themselves. The most Brilliant of her talents is that she 'teaches' her audience real history and makes a pure enjoyment from indulging in it.