Headline £18.99hbk Feb 2003
Reviewed by Kate Slatter
| Anne Perry's latest
Victorian mystery will make a lovely BBC adaptation one day - perhaps a
Inspector Thomas Pitt of the Secret Service is hauled out of bed one morning and thrust into a mystery with massive political implications and all sorts of international machinations. A man has been found murdered in the home of a senior Cabinet minister's beautiful Egyptian mistress. Will Gladstone's Government survive?
Luckily for Pitt, his wife Charlotte is keen to keep an eye on her husband. She is worried, as previous cases have inveigled him with the Inner Circle - a mysterious group who destroyed Pitt's career as a Metropolitan Police officer and nearly took his life. Charlotte is not a typical Victorian wife and quickly becomes immersed in working the case her own way, consisting mainly of taking tea with Society ladies and pounding the pavements of London's seedier areas.
Perry takes the reader from Westminster to Egypt. Her eye for detail is unerringly accurate, but the novel is utterly lacking in passion and dynamism. The story is interesting but it is difficult to really care about the outcome. The men are uniformly spineless and the women so atypically Victorian as to be incredible. The reader tires of being reminded how bright the Pitts' housemaid is, despite common birth (complete with Dick Van Dyke-style cockney dialogue), and how fiercely loyal she is to her employers, for their recognition of her "diamond in the rough" status. Wait for the television adaptation - this is a style of writing that is crying out for visual interpretation.