Things are not what they seem in fashionable Rutland Place, where secrets that are never discussed at tea include murder.
When her mother asks her help in finding a lost locket with a compromising picture, neither Charlotte Pitt, nor her mother, has any idea that the locket may be at the center of a bizarre chain of events leading to murder. Arriving at her mother’s home at Rutland Place, Charlotte discovers that other residents of the exclusive neighborhood have also suffered similar small thefts. It all appears quite mild as crimes go—a light-fingered servant, perhaps. That is, until Mina Spencer-Brown, a woman known for her prying, is poisoned and dies. Inspector Thomas Pitt quickly surmises that Mina’s snooping might have led to her murder, but what secrets had she stumbled upon? And whose?
As Pitt patiently struggles to break down the protective silence of highborn neighbors, Charlotte works behind the closed doors of society’s drawing rooms to help unravel a mystery that reveals sordid secrets and the chilling, dark corners of human behavior.
Publisher and Release Date: Open Road Media, July 2011
Time and Setting: London, Victorian England.
Genre: Historical Mystery
Heat Level: 1
Reviewer Rating: 4.5 stars
Review by Maggi
Rutland Place is one of my favorites in Anne Perry’s Thomas Pitt series. Perry’s mystery stories feature the investigative team of Charlotte Pitt, a young woman from an upper-class family, and her husband, Inspector Thomas Pitt. Not only is the characterisation consistently good, these stories are also notable for their wealth of detail about Victorian England. They take in the different strata of society, often dealing with the upper classes, and even though Charlotte is no longer a member, the status of her family allows her entry. She has far easier access than Pitt, who is considered to be on the level of a servant in the eyes of the rich, which constantly frustrates him. It is this class difference which helps Charlotte and Thomas work together so successfully to solve a mystery.
The Rutland Place mystery seems a simple one at first. But knowing Ms Perry, the reader expects it to deepen and it does.
Charlotte’s mother Caroline has lost a locket with a photo inside which, if found, would cause her more than embarrassment; it might result in her being ostracized her from society and lead to difficulties in her marriage. Caroline has asked Charlotte for her help. As they take tea with the other residents of Rutland Place, they discover more items have been stolen, all of which appear to be of little value. Many secrets lurk beneath the refined surface of the residents. When Wilhelmina Spencer-Brown, who has a habit of prying, dies from poison, Thomas Pitt is drawn in to investigate, even though initially, it seems to be a suicide. But had Wilhelmina poked her nose in where it definitely wasn’t wanted?
As usual, Pitt finds the walls of the upper class difficult to penetrate, and it is Charlotte, concerned for her mother, who helps to further in the investigation.
Slowly, the two uncover more scandal and a motive. In the final tragedy, the truth – which lies beneath the bright surface of the upper-class society where manners are so carefully preserved – is shocking and surprising, tearing down, as it does, this notion of respectability.
Some have said Ms Perry’s stories lack appropriate emotion, but I feel their reserve is an accurate reflection of English society of the time. Rutland Place is not only a finely wrought mystery; it adroitly peels off layers revealing the human frailties of the characters.