Like her literary forebear Charles Dickens, acclaimed author Anne Perry intrigues us with intricate plots propelled by vivid characters and the dark pleasures of Victorian London. Now, with Half Moon Street, Perry delivers another stunning novel enriched by the color of that matchless era: horses' hooves on cobblestone, fashionable drawing rooms where tea and scandal are served steaming hot, bedrooms whose secrets are seldom revealed, the strong beat of life in the world's most magnificent city.
Superintendent Thomas Pitt cannot immediately ascertain exactly what segment of society the dead man riding the morning tide of the Thames came from, but the sight of him is unforgettable. He lies in a battered punt drifting through the morning mist, his arms and legs chained to the boat's sides. He is clad in a torn green gown and flowers bestrew his battered body.
Is he, as Pitt fears, a French diplomat who has gone missing? Or merely someone who greatly resembles him? Pitt's determined search for answers leads him deep into London's bohemia to the theatre where beautiful Cecily Antrim is outraging society with her bold portrayal of a modern woman-- and into studios where masters of light and shadow are experimenting with the fascinating new art of photography.
But only Pitt's most relentless pursuit enables him to identify the wildfire passions raging through this tragedy of good and evil, to hunt down the guilty and protect the innocent.
Once again, Anne Perry asks us to look deeply into the crimes of heart--and rewards us a fresh and brilliant portrait of the engrossing world that she has long since made her own
Set in Oscar Wilde's London in 1891, Perry's new Thomas Pitt mystery is all about the importance of being earnest. Superintendent Pitt is summoned to the Thames when police discover the body of a young man dressed in a torn green velvet gown, manacled to a punt, "in parody of ecstasy and death." At first it seems the victim is Henri Bonnard, a functionary in the French embassy; eventually, Pitt and dour sidekick Sergeant Tellman identify the body as Delbert Cathcart, a gifted photographer. Was there a connection between Cathcart and lookalike Bonnard? Why was Cathcart's body arranged in that disturbing "feminine pose," which Perry repeatedly describes as a "mockery" of paintings of the Lady of Shallot and Ophelia? Meanwhile, Pitt's mother-in-law, Caroline Fielding, recently married to an actor 17 years her junior, blushes and stammers as her husband and his theater friends expound on Ibsen. While she's clarifying her views on the irresponsibility of pornography, Caroline spends long hours entertaining Samuel Ellison, her late husband's American half-brother, who tearfully recounts his nation's history ("I watched the white man strengthen and the red man die"). For a grandma, Caroline is an oddly jejune character, and her moralistic musings overwhelm the mystery plot, which stagnates early on. What's clearly intended to be intellectually challenging comes across as silly and pretentious. There's even a pub scene in which Wilde himself witlessly pontificates, and "a pale young Irishman addressed by his fellows as Yeats, stare[s] moodily into the distance." 15-city author tour; audio rights to Random House Audio. (Apr..
- moodily into the distance." 15-city author tour; audio rights to Random House Audio. (Apr.)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc. -- PUBLISHERS WEEKLY.
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January 01, 2001
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Excerpt from Half Moon Street by Anne Perry
Pitt turned back to the body and started to look more carefully at the extraordinary clothes the man was wearing. The green dress was torn in several places. It was impossible to tell if it had happened recently or not. The silk velvet of the bodice was ripped across the shoulders and down the seams of the arms. The flimsy skirt was torn up the front.
There were several garlands of artificial flowers strewn around. One of them sat askew across his chest.
Pitt looked at the manacle on the man's right wrist, and moved it slightly. There was no bruising or grazing on the skin. He examined the other wrist, and then both ankles. They also were unmarked.
"Did they kill him first?" he asked.
"Either that, or he put them on willingly," the surgeon replied. "If you want my opinion, I don't know. If a guess will do, I'd say after death."
"And the clothes?"
"No idea. But if he put them on himself, he was pretty rough about it."
"How long do you think he's been dead?" Pitt had little hope of a definite answer. He was not disappointed.
"No idea beyond what you can probably deduce for yourself. Some time last night, from the rigor. Can't have been floating around the river for long like this. Even a bargee would notice this a little odd."
He was right. Pitt had concluded it would have to have been after dark. There had been no mist on the river yesterday evening, and on a fine day, even up to dusk, there would be people out in pleasure boats, or strolling along the embankment.
"Any signs of struggle?" he asked.
"Nothing I can see so far." The surgeon straightened up and made his way back to the steps. Nothing on his hands, but I dare say you saw that. Sorry, Pitt. I'll look at him more closely, of course, but so far you've got an ugly situation which I am only going to make even uglier, I imagine. Good day to you." And without waiting for a reply, he climbed up the steps to the top of the Embankment where already a small crowd had gathered, peering curiously over the edge.
Tellman looked at the punt, his face puckered with incomprehension and contempt. He pulled his jacket a little tighter around himself. "French, is he?" he said darkly, his tone suggesting that that explained everything.
"Possibly, " Pitt answered. "Poor devil. But whoever did this to him could be as English as you are."
Tellman's head came up sharply and he glared at Pitt.
Pitt smiled back at him innocently.
Tellman's mouth tightened and the turned and looked up the river at the light flashing silver on the wide stretches clear of mist and the dark shadows of barges materializing from beyond. It was going to be a beautiful day. "I'd better find the river police, " Tellman said grimly. "See how far he would have drifted since he was put in."
"Don't know when that was," Pitt replied. "There's very little blood here. Wound like that to the head must have bled quite a lot. Unless there was some kind of blanket or sail here which was removed after, or he was killed somewhere else, and then put here."
"Dressed like that?" Tellman said incredulously. "Some kind of a party, Chelsea sort of way? Some--thing--went too far, and they had to get rid of him? Heaven help us, this is going to be ugly!"
"Yes sir, " Tellman said with alacrity. That was something he was willing to do, and a great deal better than waiting around for anyone from the French Embassy. "I'll find out everything I can." And with an air of busyness he set off, taking the steps two at a time, at considerable risk, given the slipperiness of the wet stone.
Pitt returned his attention to the punt and its cargo. He examined the boat itself more closely. It was lying low in the water and he had not until then wondered why. Now he realized on handling and touching the wood that it was old and many of the outer boards were rotted and waterlogged