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Callander Square by Anne Perry
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Callander Square (1980)

by Anne Perry

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: Charlotte & Thomas Pitt (2)

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Showing 1-5 of 25 (next | show all)
Thomas Pitt, a policeman, has been married to his well-born wife, Charlotte, for a relatively short amount of time. Charlotte is pregnant and quite happy with her marriage - she doesn't mind that she and Thomas don't have much money, or that she has to do housework. But that doesn't keep her from meddling in Thomas's work a bit.

Thomas's latest case involves the discovery of two dead infants buried in a wealthy neighborhood. There's no way to tell whether they were stillborn or murdered, although the one that's been dead the longest shows signs of deformities. It's a delicate case: the mother (or mothers?) likely worked or is still working for one of the nearby families. As Thomas questions the various servants, Charlotte and her sister Emily become involved as well.

I haven't read the first book in this series, but it didn't seem to interfere with my enjoyment much. I picked this up during a recent used book shopping trip, due to a recommendation in a comment on a Smart Bitches, Trashy Books post asking for historical romance recommendations involving working class couples. Unfortunately, the first book wasn't available, or I'd have started with that one.

The blog comment indicated that the books were mysteries with romantic elements, which I can sort of see but which set up expectations that Callander Square, at least, didn't fulfill. For example, while Thomas and Charlotte clearly loved each other, they didn't actually spend much on-page time together. I went into this book expecting Charlotte to give Thomas information more regularly than she did. I can't recall if she ever even admitted to Thomas that the "friend" she'd begun helping was actually General Balantyne, who might have had some connection, direct or indirect, to the dead babies. The number of sections from Emily's POV also surprised me.

Also, I didn't remember until after I started reading this that Anne Perry is the mystery author who, when she was 15, participated in the murder of her friend's mother. I'd always previously avoided her books because of that - reading murder mysteries written by someone who has actually committed one seemed...icky. On the plus side, at least there were no explicit on-page murders or "killer POV" scenes.

Anyway, back to the book itself. I really liked the beginning but started to become impatient as I got further in and there seemed to be no progress in the case. True, there were potential scandals galore (exciting!), but if it hadn't been for one particular murder, I doubt the mystery of the buried babies would have ever been solved. One very important detail didn't even come up until the last ten pages or so.

I really wish the book had included a character list/guide, or possibly a set of family trees, because keeping all the names straight was difficult. For a while there, I had a theory about the murderer's identity that involved one character's father, but I couldn't for the life of me remember if his name had ever been mentioned. It didn't help that some of the characters had relatively similar names and/or didn't get mentioned much. I kept on mixing up Carlton and Campbell, for example. And even if I remembered who the characters were and why they were important, I couldn't always remember who their spouses and children were.

Still, I enjoyed all of the various intertwined scandals and was surprised (in a good way?) that things actually worked out fairly well for several of the families, considering. The original mystery, the issue of what happened to the two dead babies, didn't grab me as much, maybe because it tended to be overshadowed by everything else.

One of my favorite things about this book was the way it handled its various female characters. Perry included a whole range of female characters, from annoying and silly to ruthlessly pragmatic. I liked some without reservation, disliked others, and found myself grudgingly respecting a few that I initially thought I'd 100% hate. The one thing nearly all of them had in common was that the men around them underestimated their perceptiveness and the depth of private lives and feelings. Even Thomas occasionally made this mistake, although he was good about listening to and learning from Charlotte, and was never so badly shaken by what he learned as some of the other men.

This was a bit slow for my tastes and didn't have Charlotte and Thomas on-page together as much as I'd expected, but I did enjoy it and plan on reading the next book at some point. I might also go back and read the first one, just to see what I missed.

(Original review posted on A Library Girl's Familiar Diversions.) ( )
  Familiar_Diversions | Feb 17, 2019 |
This book takes place during the Victorian Era in England. It is a time where the behavior of men and women follow many rules and Anne Perry has captured the time period exquisitely. Her characters are well-drawn and the plot is dark and suspenseful. The bodies of two babies have been found in Callander Square. The police are totally baffled. Pretty, young Charlotte Ellison Pitt, however, is curious.

Inspector Pitt's well-bred wife doesn't often meddle in her husband's business, but something about this case intrigues her to the point that staid Charlotte Pitt is suddenly rattling the closets of the very rich, seeking out backstairs gossip that would shock a barmaid, and unearthing truths that could push even the most proper aristocrat to murder.

I listened to the audio and found this book to be very engaging and the mystery held my attention right down to the surprise ending which I did not see coming. This is the 2nd book in the series and I look forward to reading the 3rd. I would recommend this series to those who like to read about Victorian England. ( )
  EadieB | Jul 20, 2018 |
Inspector Pitt is called upon to investigate the possible murder of two infants buried in the common garden area of Callender Square. The wealthy and distinguished residents resent his intrusion into their lives and his revealing of their secrets. Charlotte Pitt, recently married to Thomas does not intend to involve herself in the investigation, but her sister, Emily, recently married to Lord Ashworth is in a position to call upon the residents of the square and surreptitiously gain information. Charlotte herself is pulled in when Emily arranges a position for her as secretary to one of the residents working on a family history.

I love the intelligence and gregariousness of both Charlotte and Emily. Where Emily is more devious and sly, able to comport herself in society with just the right attitude, Charlotte is rather unable to keep from saying exactly what she thinks. The juxtaposition of their marriages, Charlotte's "beneath her station" and Emily's "above" will, I think, allow the two sisters to assist Pitt on his investigations for many of the following books in this series. I'm delighted with both of them, as well as Pitt himself, who, while being resented by members of the higher society he must question, is also respected by those of whom are able to spot an honest, intelligent and earnest individual...that is, those with little to hide.
I very much look forward to more of these. ( )
  EmScape | Sep 17, 2017 |
late 19th c England
Ins. Pitt — aristocrats / back stabbing gossip unwed maids wives look other way
okay for men / not talked @ / syphilis — good
10 times Edith Wharton + Henry James wrote about

Murders just don’t happen in fashionable areas like Callander Square–but these two have. The police are totally baffled. Pretty, young Charlotte Ellison Pitt, however, is curious.
Inspector Pitt’s well-bred wife doesn’t often meddle in her husband’s business, but something about this case intrigues her–to the point that staid Charlotte Pitt is suddenly rattling the closets of the very rich, seeking out backstairs gossip that would shock a barmaid, and unearthing truths that could push even the most proper aristocrat to murder.
  christinejoseph | Jul 12, 2017 |
I enjoyed this book. Her writing style still bothers me a little, but I will continue with the series because I really like Thomas & Charlotte Pitt. ( )
  AmieB7 | Jan 21, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 25 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (5 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Anne Perryprimary authorall editionscalculated
Damiani, MaddalenaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Porter, DavinaNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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The autumn air hung mild and faintly misty, and the grass in Callander Square was dappled yellow with fallen leaves in the late afternoon sun.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0449209997, Mass Market Paperback)

"Murder fans who prefer their crimes with a touch of class should heat some scones and nestle back for the afternoon."
ATLANTA JOURNAL & CONSTITUTION
Murders just didn't take place in fashionable Callander Square, so Inspector Pitt's well-bred wife Charlotte couldn't resist finding out why one had. Suddenly there she was, rattling the closets of the very rich, listening to backstair gossip, and unearthing truths that could push even the most proper aristocrat to murder....

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:23:31 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

When the bodies of two infants are discovered in the gardens of a quiet, elegant square in London, Charlotte Ellison Pitt, a Victorian policeman's wife, and her sister Emily conduct an unorthodox inquiry into the secret scandals of Callander Square.

» see all 6 descriptions

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