The act of reading ... begins on a flat surface, counter or page, and then gets stirred and chopped and blended until what we make, in the end, is a dish, or story, all our own.
— Adam Gopnik

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May 3, 2017

Murder on the Serpentine

This is the 32nd (!) book in Anne Perry's series about Thomas and Charlotte Pitt, and I always look forward to them.  I think it was this series that got me started with enjoying mysteries with historical settings. The relationship between Thomas and Charlotte has always been heartwarming, and there are very thoughtful musings about the morality of what has happened and the methods that Thomas (especially in his murky new role as Commander of Special Branch) and Charlotte use to solve the crime.  For me, there was an added pleasure in this book: as has happened before, Thomas is working directly, and secretly, for Queen Victoria, who has summoned him to Buckingham Palace after Sir John Halberd, one of her friends and advisors is founded drowned in the Serpentine, a usually peaceful waterway that runs through Hyde Park.

The moral questions in this book focus on secrets.  Halberd had been investigating Alan Kendrick, a new friend and adviser to the Prince of Wales, and the Queen, who knows that she is at the end of her reign, is concerned about his influence over the son who will succeed her.  When she asks Pitt to continue the investigation, he is also drawn in to how Halberd died, and the implications for Kendrick's wife, who is known to have been the Prince's mistress, and thought to be Halberd's.  The suspects keep secrets, and use them against their opponents.  For their part, Thomas and Charlotte fear that Victor Narraway, Pitt's mentor who is now married to their beloved Aunt Vespasia, has played a part in what has happened.  Narraway has also given Pitt some secret files on men in high places, and Pitt struggles with the need to use what is in them to stop not only the crimes that follow but the very real possibility of a second Boer war.

In some ways, this was a little bit of a quieter book than some have been, as Thomas struggles with keeping secrets, and using them, and Charlotte worries about losing her ability to contribute to his work. But I liked that thoughtfulness, and as always enjoyed the time I spent in their (very) late-Victorian world.  (I've read that this is the 'last' book in the series, but that Anne Perry will be creating a new one that begins about ten years later.  There's a change in the Pitts' lives at the end of the book, and the idea of re-launching a series like this, with some new characters along with the old, is very appealing.)

Murder on the Serpentine is being published this month.  Thank you to NetGalley and Ballantine Books for the treat of being able to read it a little early. :)

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