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The Cater Street Hangman by Anne Perry

Charlotte Ellison lives a outwardly beatific and genuinely boring existence at her home in the London suburbs. To her mind, her most vexing problems are her father’s refusal to allow her to read his newspapers—a common enough attitude in Victorian England—and her unresolved, unadmitted crush on her brother-in-law Dominic. Anne Perry’s Cater Street Hangman portrays Charlotte’s extremely circumscribed position as one that might have yawningly gone on for years, filled with good works and a suitable marriage, were it not for the gruesome murders of young girls in the environs of her Cater Street home.

Of course the murders made the papers—that was just another reason why Mr. Ellison disallowed his wife and daughters to read them. He –would- sometimes read aloud choice bits that would not trouble their psyches, but something as terrible as the murder by garrote and subsequent violation of the corpse of one of the family’s friends—no! Too shocking for delicate female minds. Best to not speak of it. For outspoken Charlotte, the situation is maddeningly frustrating.

When yet another murder strikes down a member of the Ellison household, the matter can’t be swept aside like an old and purloined newspaper. Inspector Pitt of the London police force is determined to get answers. Tall, well-spoken, intelligent, and rather shabbily dressed, this person becomes a repeated and unwanted presence in the tidily dull household. His lines of questioning reveal many things that the Ellison men would prefer were not common knowledge—where (and with whom) do they go at night and what scenarios from their past would they prefer remain hidden?
 
As her circumspect life dissolves around her, Charlotte finds that the only person who truly seems sympathetic and trustworthy is Inspector Pitt, whose obvious admiration for her is a matter for tittering amongst her family circle, for what mere policeman would dare to hope for the returned affections of an Ellison daughter? Ridiculous!
 
And yet it would seem love will have its way. This is the first of the Charlotte and Thomas Pitt novels. As the stories progress, other Ellison family members find their fortunes changed as well as their characters. The Cater Street Hangman is also available on cassette and as a downloadable audio book.