'How pleasant it is to spend an evening in this way! I declare that after all there is no enjoyment like reading! How much sooner one tires of any thing than of a book! — When I have a house of my own, I shall be miserable if I have not an excellent library.' No one made any reply. She then yawned again, threw aside her book, and cast her eyes round the room in quest of some amusement. — from Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen (1775-1817)
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January 18, 2014

Death on Blackheath



      His quirky face still held its usual humor, but also a shadow of pain.
      'I have had time to think very hard about what I have done in my outrage...,' he replied. And I realize that part of my reaction was fear. We have not so very long to go before the turn of the century. Much will change. The queen is old, and I believe, very tired.'  His own voice sounded weary as he said it. 'She has been alone for too many years. Because it has been so long in coming, I think the new reign will be very different.'
      She did not interrupt him. She had had these thoughts herself.
      'Powers are shifting,' he went on. 'I see shadows in many directions. Perhaps it is just such shadows that are frightening me, but I don't think so. ... Nevertheless, I acted ...' He looked for the right word. 'I acted without foreseeing some of the results of what I was doing, or how they might affect others. Pitt did not charge me, and he easily could have.' He looked very directly at her, his eyes deeply troubled. 'I owe him a debt now that I need to repay.'
       She wished very much to help him, but there were bounds she could not cross. 'If you are looking for information, my dear, I cannot help you,' she told him. Her voice was gentle, but there was steel in it. She could not allow him to think that she would relent.
      Amusement flickered across his face and vanished. 'If you did, I would hate it more than you could imagine,' he replied. 'You are a fixed part in a constantly eroding universe. We have to have a polestar, one true north.'
      She blinked rapidly to hide the tears that sprang suddenly to her eyes. 'That is quite the oddest compliment I have ever received,' she said a little huskily. But unquestionably one of the best. What is it that I can help you with, if not information?'
      'Tell me of something I can do to help,' he replied.
      'What could you do that they are not already doing?' She was puzzled. Did he have something in mind, or was he searching as discreetly as it seemed?
      'Many things,' he said with a gesture of his hands as if to encompass a vast space. 'I am not restricted by the law. I know it quite well, but there are areas of it for which I have little regard. And if I can take risks when it suits me, I can make it suit me now.'
      She looked at his face, the desperation in his eyes, and believed him. 'Please do not steal any more corpses and put them in dramatic and important places, she said wryly. 'There are other ways of attracting people's attention.'
      He gave a very little smile. 'You must admit, there are very few that work as well!'

Even though there's a kind of steadiness about Anne Perry's mysteries {I follow the series about William and Hester Monk, and this one, set a little later in the Victorian age, about Thomas and Charlotte Pitt}, there's something comfortable in that. Even if I know what to expect, I always know that I'll enjoy them.

In Death on Blackheath, Pitt is called to Shooter's Hill, one of the highest points in London, to the home f Dudley Kynaston, a well-born, respected naval scientist and inventor, when blood and hair is found on the steps leading to the servants' quarters, and Kitty Ryder, Mrs. Kynaston's lady's maid, is found to be missing.  When the body of a young woman, with her face mutilated, is found in the gravel pits near the house, it is difficult to tell whether it is Kitty's; has she run away with her young man, or was she killed, because of something she had learned? Pitt, as Commander of Special Branch, is called in because of Kynaston's high-profile role in naval operations, and the possibility that he is either involved in Kitty's disappearance or that it has been engineering to threaten him. Then there's another murder, and a pretty good plot twist, involving the man with the quirky face.

As usual, Death on Blackheath is intelligent, suspenseful and well-written, and there's romance for Lady Vespasia, and a romantic side to Stoker, Pitt's strong, silent sergeant. 

I read Death on Blackheath courtesy of NetGalley.  It will be published here in late March.

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