Friday, November 18, 2011

Review: The Cater Street Hangman by Anne Perry

From the Back Cover:

The first book in Perry's bestselling Victorian crime series, bringing together Inspector Thomas Pitt and Charlotte Ellison.

Panic and fear strike the Ellison household when one of their own falls prey to the Cater Street murderer, who strangles young women with a garrotte, leaving their swollen-faced bodies on the dark streets of this genteel neighborhood.The quiet and young Inspector Pitt investigates the scene and finds no one above suspicion. As his intense questioning causes many a composed facade to crumble, Pitt finds himself curiously drawn to pretty Charlotte Ellison. Yet, a romance between a society girl and so unsuitable a suitor was impossible in the midst of a murder....

My Thoughts:

I have long heard people talking about Anne Perry, and thanks to Open Road republishing her Pitt mysteries, I finally got the chance to read her myself! The Cater Street Hangman was originally pubished in 1979, but it holds its own against the newer books in this genre. I'm a huge fan of Deanna Raybourn's Lady Julia Grey series, so it's kind of the standard to which I hold other mysteries, and I can't help but compare a bit while reading. Here's how The Cater Street Hangman stacks up:

With this first installment in Perry's series, I felt like the actual mystery was a bit removed from the story. This wasn't necessarily a bad thing. There was a lot of focus on human nature and the power of emotions and suspicions, and how a crime affects people on the periphery: friends, neighbors, family. Tension in the Ellison house mounts as the murderer dubbed "The Cater Street Hangman" starts picking off young women in the neighborhood. Charlotte and her sisters, Sarah and Emily, are cautioned against going out alone, and with the whole neighborhood on edge, they can't help but dwell on the murders. As Inspector Pitt begins his investigation of everyone who lives in the neighborhood, in a desperate attempt to catch a madman, he casts seeds of doubt within the family, and they begin to suspect each other. As more women are murdered and hysteria grows, hurtful family secrets are revealed and thrust into the spotlight. There's a tragic twist toward the end that was just all the more awful for the emotional damage the family has inflicted upon each other.

If you're a fan of Raybourn's series, you should like this one. The danger is very real and the depiction of a family unraveling is excellent. I was able to figure out who the murderer was, but the motive turned out to be quite the surprise, and a nice twist. I would've liked to see the romance developed a little more. For me, this story lacks the depth of romantic emotion and sizzling sexual tension that make Julia and Brisbane's story so great. I did not get to know Thomas Pitt very well, but I suspect that will be remedied rather quickly in the following installments. And after such mounting tension and excitement, I thought the ending was too abrupt. I thought it was a great way to end a scene, but not the book! An epilogue would've made me happier. But I still enjoyed it very much and could not put it down past the halfway point. It's a very well-written, suspenseful story with engaging characters and should please historical mystery fans. I've already picked up the second book in the series.

My Rating: 4 Stars out of 5

I received this eARC from the publisher for review. These are my unbiased opinions and I was not compensated in any other way for reviewing this book. Open Road Media is re-releasing the Pitt mysteries as ebooks. Check out their website and this video from Anne Perry.

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