Thursday, April 6, 2017
Murder on the Serpentine by Anne Perry
The 32nd and final novel in Perry's best-selling Victorian mystery series is set in 1899, in the final years of Victoria's long reign.
Thomas Pitt has risen from humble circumstances to Commander of Special Branch, the 19th century agency originally created to deal with Irish insurrectionists, which eventually became Britain's clandestine intelligence service, MI5.
Now Pitt has been summoned by Victoria herself, to make discreet inquiries into the death of Sir John Halberd, the Queen's trusted confidant. Halberd's death appears to be an unfortunate accident but police sources tell Pitt that some evidence has been quietly suppressed to avoid damage to Halberd's reputation and embarrassment to the Crown. The Queen tells Pitt that Halberd, at her request, was quietly investigating a close friend of the Prince of Wales, and that she is troubled because his sudden demise prevented Halberd from reporting his findings to her.
Victoria charges Pitt with two tasks, both of which must be carried out with utmost discretion: to determine whether Sir John's death was accident or deliberate murder; and to find out what Sir John discovered about the Prince of Wales' friend. Pitt must report what he learns only to the Queen herself, and as quickly as possible.
This is the greatest challenge of Pitt's career; the royal succession, the reputation of the Prince of Wales, the fate of the monarchy itself, rests in his hands. Although he cannot confide any of this to Charlotte, she realizes he is troubled over some case. It doesn't take long for her to work out what, and realize that she, and her sister Emily who has access to the highest echelons of British society, can make discreet inquiries of their own that could help Pitt's investigation.
Even after Pitt assembles the evidence to prove who murdered Sir John Halberd and why, he still faces the danger that the murderer will deliberately implicate the Prince, not just in scandal but actual treason, if he is charged with his crimes. But Pitt finds another means to achieve justice, and in turn he receives an unlooked for reward.
The final installment in the Charlotte and Thomas Pitt series ends on a satisfying note. However, Perry has announced she will start a new mystery series, fast-forwarding ten years to 1910, which will focus on the next generation of the Pitt family.
Click HERE to read a review from Publishers Weekly.
Click HERE to read a review from the Washington Post.