- Virginia Johnson
For those who have followed Charlotte and Thomas Pitt from their awkward yet charming days of courtship in The Cater Street Hangman, Anne Perry’s recent Dorchester Terrace is a very enjoyable continuation of the series. Thomas has risen far since his days as a regular London policeman. He’s now head of Special Branch, a reward for his brilliant detective work and, probably not incidentally, saving Queen Victoria from a dastardly plot.
But, in class-conscious, 19th-century Britain, family background matters a lot to some people. Thomas, a gamekeeper’s son, often encounters people who question his ability to do his job when they find out who he isn’t. One of those is his immediate predecessor as head of Special Branch, Victor Narraway. In the preceding novel, Victor lost his job to Thomas almost but not quite disgracefully and rather lost his heart to Thomas’ clever and kind wife, Charlotte. Charlotte, born to live in Narraway’s world of privilege, has assisted her husband’s investigations through the years, but now that he is privy to so many state secrets, that will surely change—won’t it?
That was the plan—Charlotte sticking to managing the household whilst Pitt keeps the country safe. Yet when Serafina Monserrat, Aunt Vespasia’s old friend from pan-European revolutionary days, dies under mysterious circumstances just as a plot to assassinate a minor Austro-Hungarian nobleman is painstakingly brought to light, the plan has to change. Serafina knew secrets about every major state in Europe, including Austria-Hungary, and as her illness progressed her mind wandered. Some days she wouldn’t know to whom she was speaking, and she had quite a few visitors, including Charlotte’s new friend Adriana Blayne. In Serafina’s lucid moments she was terrified that what she might say could get her killed. It seems that the two events may have some connection and that Pitt will need his wife’s help yet again to unravel the mystery that threatens to plunge the world into war.