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Published by Headline,
22 September 2016. ISBN: 978-1-4722-3405-6 (HB)
The 19th Century is
drawing to a close and British people fear that they will soon be facing life
with a new monarch as well as dealing with a new century. Queen Victoria is old
and frail and it seems inevitable that her long reign will soon be over. Many
people doubt the ability of her son to rule wisely. The Prince of Wales is a
man who has always been easily led astray by his passions and by his friends,
not all of whom are honourable or wise, and there have been many disreputable
incidents in the Prince’s past.
Thomas Pitt is now the Head of Special Branch, a role he often finds difficult
and distasteful. As a police officer Pitt had learned the skills of detection
and witnessed many brutal crimes but to be charged with maintaining the safety
of the realm requires a different set of skills and a very different mind-set.
Not having been born into the higher ranks of society, Pitt sometimes feels out
of his depth when he has to investigate treasonable activities amongst the
Victoria sends for Pitt and asks him to investigate the death of her friend and
advisor Sir John Halberd, who has died recently in what seems to be a tragic
accident. Apparently he had taken out a rowing boat on the Serpentine, at
night, and was found dead the next morning by a man walking his dog. Halberd
had a head injury but the cause of death was by drowning. The official verdict
is that he stood up in the boat and then fell, hitting his head and knocking
himself unconscious, so that he drowned in the shallow water. The gossip
surrounding his death assumes that Halberd must have been at the Serpentine for
a clandestine meeting, either with a prostitute or with a married woman, with
whom he was having an affair.
Victoria had not been made aware of the salacious gossip but she finds it
impossible to believe that Halberd had died in such a foolish accident. She
informs Pitt that she had asked Halberd to find out some information for her
about the Prince of Wales’ friends, specifically about Alan Kendrick, a man
that she distrusts. The Queen is weighed down by the fear that Halberd
discovered something discreditable about Kendrick that could bring the Prince
into disrepute and that he had been silenced before he could report back to
her. She charges Pitt with the double task of following up Halberd’s
investigation into Kendrick and discovering the truth about Halberd’s death.
Pitt this is one of the most daunting assignments he has ever undertaken. He
has to ask searching questions of people who regard him with contempt and he is
painfully aware that he could offend the Prince of Wales, who will soon become
King and who could destroy Pitt’s career, his family’s livelihood and his
children’s futures. Pitt’s mentor, Lord Narraway is travelling abroad and
cannot be consulted. He feels unable to confide in his wife, Charlotte, both
because this is a matter of state and because he fears for her safety. The only
power Pitt has is the Queen’s command and the notes left to him by Narraway –
notes that list many influential people’s weaknesses and guilty secrets –
information that Pitt hopes he never has to use.
Pitt is feeling left out and rather useless. When Pitt was a policeman he could
confide in her and often she could help him with his cases, taking advantage of
the access to Society that her birth and upbringing gave her. Although Pitt
does not wish to tell her about his new task, Charlotte soon realises how vital
this case is to Pitt, and that his career and the future security of their
family depend on his success. She determines to help him and enlists the aid of
her sister, Emily, to help her to return to the social gatherings she has
drifted away from. With Charlotte’s assistance, Pitt discovers that there is
indeed a dark secret behind Halberd’s death and it is one which endangers the safety
of the Empire and the integrity of the monarchy.
on the Serpentine is the 24th novel featuring Thomas Pitt but it
works well as a stand-alone novel, as well as being a pleasure for readers who
have been following Pitt’s career since he was a young police inspector. Anne
Perry writes with great authority and is skilled at weaving in the back-story
behind the series and also describing just the right amount of the historical
background. Murder on the Serpentine is a cleverly plotted novel with engaging
protagonists. The fiction is cleverly interwoven with its authentic historical
background and events. An excellent read and one which I recommend.
Anne Perry was born
in Blackheath, England on 28 October 1938 as Juliet Marion Hulme. Sheis an English author of
historical detective fiction, best known for her Thomas Pitt and William Monk
series. Her publishing career began with The Cater Street Hangman. Published in 1979, this was the first
book in the series to feature the Victorian policeman Thomas Pitt and his
well-born wife Charlotte. It was filmed and broadcast on ITV featuring a young
Keely Hawes. Anne started a second series of detective novels
with The Face of a Stranger. These
are set about 35 years before and feature the private detective William Monk
and volatile nurse Hester Latterly. Anne won an Edgar award in 2000 with her
short story Heroes. The main
character in the story features in an ambitious five-book series set during the
First World War. The last of these was recently published, in Autumn 2007.
Anne’s most recent stand-alone is The
Sheen on the Silk, set in the exotic and dangerous world of the Byzantine Empire, and is a critical success.
Carol Westronis a successful short
story writer and a Creative Writing teacher.She is the moderator for the cosy/historical crime panel, The Deadly
Dames.Her crime novels are set both in contemporary
and Victorian times.The Terminal
Velocity of Cats is the first in her Scene of Crimes novels, was published
July 2013. Her latest book The Fragility
of Poppies was published 10 June 2016.