Thursday, July 4, 2013

Review: Midnight at Marble Arch by Anne Perry

Midnight at Marble Arch (Thomas & Charlotte Pitt, Book #28)
By Anne Perry
Release Date: April 9th, 2013
2013 Ballantine Books
Hardcover Edition; 352 Pages
ISBN: 978-0-345-53666-2
Genre: Fiction / Historical / Mystery
Source: Review copy from publisher

3.5 / 5 Stars

The horrifying rape and apparent suicide of Catherine Quixwood, wife of a wealthy merchant banker, falls outside the new jurisdiction of Special Branch head Thomas Pitt, but so pervasively offensive are the rumors about the victim that Pitt quietly takes a hand in the investigation.

Yet even with the help of his ingenious wife, Charlotte, and his former superior, Victor Narraway, Pitt is stumped. Why did high-minded, cultured Catherine choose not to accompany her husband to a grand party on the night of her demise? Why did she dismiss all her servants for the evening and leave the front door unlocked? What had been her relationship with the young man seen frequently by her side at concerts and art exhibits? And what can be done to avenge another terrible crime: the assault on Angeles Castelbranco, beloved teenage daughter of the Portuguese ambassador?

As an ordinary policeman, Pitt had once entered London’s grand houses through the kitchen door. Now, as a guest in those same houses, can he find the steel in his soul to challenge the great men of the world with their crimes? The path to the truth takes him in deeply troubling directions, from the lofty world of international politics and finance to his own happy home, where his own teenage daughter, Jemima, is coming of age in a culture rife with hidden dangers.

My Thoughts
Midnight at Marble Arch is the twenty-eighth novel in the Thomas and Charlotte Pitt novels.  I have been a huge fan of Anne Perry since I first discovered her years ago, and have read every single one of her novels because I could immerse myself in the time period that she describes so well and feel like I was there.  She is also able to take complex topics from the time period and make you understand how people from the Victorian era would possibly react and think about the situations and help you understand the era a little bit better.  With this novel, I don't quite feel like Ms. Perry hit her mark however, although rape is a tough subject with which to deal, and it felt like the characters had a much too modern feel in their thinking as opposed to the thinking of the time period.

What I liked:
As always, the twists and turns of Anne Perry's mysteries are always great.  Just when I think I have everything figured out, there is always that one last twist that makes me wonder how I missed that one little clue; I may have figured out who the players were, but not necessarily the reasons why and that irks me, but the fact that after all of these mysteries and I can still be kept on my toes is quite interesting.  

The relationship between Charlotte and Pitt, while more modern than most, is quite interesting to see. While Charlotte tends to have a lot more freedom than most women in her era, there are little things that are evident that show that Thomas is still head of the household and I find that quite interesting.  I especially liked how Thomas and Charlotte are dealing with a more rebellious teenager and two children who are much more curious about the cases that surround them every day.  It should be much more interesting in the future to see how Thomas, especially, deals with a very curious Jemima, especially if she takes after Charlotte more and more in the future.  I see some very interesting developments int he future and some very amusing ones too.

Narraway and Aunt Vespasia are still favourites of mine and I like the growing interest between them.  This relationship should also prove to be interesting, especially as Narraway doesn't know what to do with his time and is struggling to deal with a forced retirement.  

Some of the issues I noticed:
I really didn't buy into Thomas being brought into the investigation as I didn't see how Special Branches had anything to do with the investigation at all.  It seemed pretty thin as to what amounted to nothing more than a police investigation and your usual drawn-out court battle that seemed more par for the course of a Monk novel than a Pitt novel.  What I did notice was all of the references to the Boer War and I could see what future novels might have in store for us and I can't wait to see what investigations Pitt might be doing with regards to that development.  But for this one, I sort of was one the side of the Home Secretary and felt that Pitt really had no business being involved in the case.

While I applaud Anne Perry for discussing the rape topic during the Victorian era, I'm not sure she quite succeeded in showing us twentieth century folks exactly what it would have been like during this time period. There were definitely glimpses of hostility against women, and women's reputation being ruined because she did something to bring it one, and there was definite gossip about one girl who must have been a slut and nothing about the man, but I don't think it was enough.  During a time period when even showing an ankle was cause for gossip, I can't even imagine women discussing it during a luncheon or tea and quite candidly at that.  And considering the chauvinistic attitude of the men during this time period, I would have thought that opinion towards Catherine would be rather low and that common thought would be that she brought it on herself.  And even though I imagine there were many enlightened people during this time period, I'm not sure how many would spoken out about it as even today it is such a controversial topic that many women are afraid to go to the police and press charges.  I can't even imagine what it would have been like during this time period when most policemen were asked to go to the side door so they would not been seen at people's houses.  I felt like too much of twentieth century thought was in this novel and wanted more controversy which is how it would have been.  A trial like that would have raised the ire and interest of most of London I am sure.  Thankfully, today, we are much more enlightened.

Midnight at Marble Arch was an interesting novel due to the controversial subject of the mystery, although I did feel like the mystery was too easily solved despite the nice twists and turns involved.  I felt quite strongly that the reasons for involving Pitt were not believable and the mystery could have easily left him out and revolved around Knox, Narraway, Vespasia, and others.  This novel felt more like a lead-in towards the Boer War and some interesting developments that were going to happen in the future.  Despite all of this, and the Monk feel to the novel, I still enjoyed it, and was glad to see that Anne Perry was still not afraid to tackle the controversial topics, topics I hope she continues to tackle in the future.  


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