Eighth in the Charlotte and Thomas Pitt mystery series set in late 19th century London.
The Eustace March is having a house party and part of its intention is to vet Jack Radley and arrange his marriage to Tassie. For some reason, George, Emily, and Aunt Vespasia are part of the party; Vespasia is Eustace’s mother-in-law and George’s great-aunt. William and Sybilla March are also visiting.
As the members of the party pursue the activities of upperclass-dom, George takes up an overt flirtation with the very willing Sybilla with whom he is falling in love and Emily is terrified at the thought of losing her George. Emily’s misery is showing and making George angry [prick!] and Emily determines that she will fight fire with fire and become the life of the party. It does work…on Jack. This does catch George’s attention and Emily believes they have a chance again only to find that chance forever shattered when she finds George dead in his bed.
As much as he likes Emily, even Thomas is concerned that she may be the murderer. A grave concern when yet another murder occurs within the house. Fortunately for Emily, Charlotte arrives to stay…and detect. The resolution of it revolving around the family dynamics and dysfunctions…with a little help from yet another murderer.
Lady Ashworth, Emily, is married to George in what has been, up to now, a very happy marriage. She is also Charlotte Pitt’s sister.
Charlotte Pitt married seriously down, class-wise, when she insisted upon marrying Thomas Pitt, the son of a gamekeeper and now a detective with the Metropolitan Police force in London. Of a naturally curious bent, Charlotte regularly “helps” Thomas solve cases by using her upperclass connections—sometimes with Emily and Vespasia’s help. It’s been a lovely collusion as it provides a showcase for discussing social issues of the day—and satisfying to Perry’s readers as Vespasia collaborates with the powers of the day to do something about those issues.
Thomas is a social misfit in more ways than just marrying way above himself; he also thinks himself good enough to enter anyone’s house…gasp…by the front door. He does try hard not to make political waves, but he still “don’t take no shit”. Ya gotta love him just for that! Together, they have two children, Jemima and Daniel.
Aunt Vespasia, Lady Cumming-Gould, was beautiful as a girl and has retained the beauty and the confidence to be honest and compassionate…and a very smart, no-nonsense woman in her older years. She doesn’t put up with much from either Eustace or Mrs. March—go Vespasia!
The characters relevant to this particular story include Eustace March who is the head of the family and a more overbearing, self-righteous, know-it-all prick I never want to encounter again. He has a dark, disgusting secret, which only reflects his attitudes. Between him and his mother, they manage to tear everyone apart over and over as they combine forces to railroad Emily.
William March is the son of the house and an accredited painter and in 12 years of marriage to Sybilla has not yet managed an heir. A lack his father and grandmother never cease to rail about. Sybilla herself is a beauty in both looks and personality, too bad about her morals, flirting outrageously with George.
Tassie March is the daughter of the house and takes after Vespasia’s side of the family—she has a compassionate heart. However, she also has carries a family-destroying, bloody secret.
Jack Radley is, like Emily, an outsider amongst the Marches with only his face, his personality, and his wit to recommend him although Eustace is courting him for his bloodline. If he marries Tassie, Eustace might get his peerage.
As ever, Perry does a lovely job of recreating the sense of the late 19th century through the dialog and the mores, culture, and styles of the time. The part I don’t understand is why Emily and George and Aunt Vespasia are even staying at the Marches. They all live in London. Why would they be spending weeks at a house where they can’t stand its matriarch or her son??
I also resent the summary on the back of the book where it claims that George is a womanizing aristocrat. Sure, he’s an aristocrat. But this is the first time [in the series] that George has behaved this way. This does not make him a womanizer!
This is just like book covers…don’t the summarizers or cover artists ever read the damned book??!
Now that I have that off my chest. It’s a very frustrating and terrifying read as there seem to be no clues to help clear Emily and the only allies she has are Aunt Vespasia [I do love this woman!] and Jack, the man she suspects of having killed George.
The cover is…different. In two shades of gray, there is an inch-and-a-half diameter circle rich with an empurpled London street scene at night which doesn’t appear to have anything to do with the story.