First in the Charlotte and Thomas Pitt historical mystery series set in Victorian England in 1881.
A number of murders committed by the same person brings Inspector Thomas Pitt to the Ellison household with questions regarding the victims. Naturally, being a respectable household, the Ellisons clam up. Then one of the household becomes a murder victim and Pitt becomes a regular, if mostly unwanted, fixture.
And so the summer winds into fall with few clues but leaving time for some in the Ellison house to gain insight into their own characters while the neighbors increasingly begin to look amongst themselves in fear. A most uncomfortable year.
Charlotte Ellison is a forthright, outspoken young woman of whom her mother, Caroline, despairs of every marrying off. Fortunately, Emily Ellison, the youngest daughter, is quite practical and has set her sights on Lord George Ashworth while Sarah Ellison is married to Dominic Corde, a beautiful young man with whom Charlotte is in love. Edward Ellison is the patriarch and his word is law. Maddock is the butler. His mother, Mrs. Ellison, a.k.a., Grandmama, seems to switch between living in their household and with her other daughter Susannah, a widow; a great pity for both.
Inspector Thomas Pitt is the policeman in charge of the case and he seems to alternate between alienating the Ellisons and providing them with a truer sense of the world around them.
The vicar, Mr. Prebble is obsessed with sin—especially that women are frail vessels and full of sin. A typical religious nutcase! His wife, Martha Prebble is a long-suffering woman consumed with good works whom most in the neighborhood pity.
I can’t believe that in all the years I’ve been reading this series, I missed the very beginning. I’m not sure if I’m not as impressed with this start because I’m bringing expectations to it or if it’s simply the typical rough start authors sometimes have. I have enjoyed getting the baseline, however.
What assholes men of the time were! A woman is killed and that automatically means she is immoral!?? Then there’s that whole double standard of men can screw around but god forbid a woman should do the same! I do love seeing Grandmama get hers; she is such a nasty bitch!
I don’t buy the romance that springs up between Charlotte and Pitt. It’s not believable. Oh, that Charlotte would be attracted to Thomas is believable because he is intelligent and perceptive without expecting blind adherence to his words but I don’t see what attracts Thomas to Charlotte except for her higher status and that she thinks about the facts he presents to her about the world outside her own.
Quibbles: I don’t think Perry did any in-depth research on how people addressed one another in this time period what with referring to people by their Christian names no matter who they were or their class. Nor did we receive much in the way of clues…at least, not to my mind!
The title is odd. I was expecting something to do with hanging. Instead, a “hangman” can also be someone who “hangs” someone, in this case, using a garrote while Cater Street is the area in which the murders are taking place.