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Half Moon Street by Anne Perry

Half Moon Street (2000)

by Anne Perry

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: Charlotte and Thomas Pitt (20)

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I love Anne Perry's novels, all of them, for the vitality and complexity of her characters and her keen depiction of 19th century England. If only there were more than the great stack I've read. ( )
  jarvenpa | Mar 31, 2013 |
This is, hands down, one of the very best mystery novels I’ve ever read. I’ve complained before about having put together important pieces of the puzzle before the characters in other Anne Perry novels, but that wasn’t a problem in this book. I was hooked from the beginning, and I didn’t put it down until the end.

Superintendent Thomas Pitt of Bow Street Station investigates some of the most sensitive crimes in Victorian London. When a man’s body, dressed in a green gown and laid out in a boat in a suggestive pose, is found floating down the Thames, Pitt is the natural person to handle the investigation.

Meanwhile, Pitt’s mother-in-law, Caroline, is finding that marriage to a Jewish actor seventeen years her junior has even more difficulties than she anticipated, while her first husband’s mother, Mariah Ellison, finds her peace threatened by a relative from America.

I didn’t see the ending coming at all, even though it arose naturally from everything that came before it. I adored the interaction between Caroline and Mariah, and the revelations about Mariah’s past.

Anne Perry investigates real moral issues in her fiction, without applying today’s values. She never writes as though the outcome were already decided, even when it is, from our point of view. She never patronizes her characters, and that’s part of what makes her historical writing so effective and believable. ( )
  Poodlerat | Jun 2, 2008 |
Inspec Pitt, murdered photographer-Cathcart, theater star Cecily Antrim, son Orlando
Carolina, Joshua Sameul(from America)
  mtnmamma | Nov 16, 2007 |
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Anne Perryprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Griffini, Grazia MariaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0449006557, Mass Market Paperback)

Secrets and lies, calumnies and evasions: in Anne Perry's Victorian mysteries, these elements, rather than a hat or gloves, a bustle or a watch fob, are the usual accoutrements of refined ladies and gentlemen. Half Moon Street marks the return of Inspector Thomas Pitt (20 novels now, beginning with The Cater Street Hangman and still going strong) to the cobblestoned streets and elegant drawing rooms of 19th-century London.

The inhabitants of those drawing rooms aren't usually thrilled to see him, because he always comes bearing bad news. This time, a body has turned up in a boat on the Thames: Delbert Cathcart, a talented portrait photographer with a taste for blackmail. Clad in a velvet dress, wrists manacled, legs spread grotesquely, skull crushed, Cathcart reminds Pitt of a perverse echo of the Lady of Shalott, or perhaps a debased Ophelia. Which of Cathcart's clients could have been pushed so far as to retaliate in such hideous fashion?

Pitt's official investigation is usually combined with another more idiosyncratic approach to the crime; this secondary analysis gives Perry free rein to dissect the manners and morals of Victorian society. In Half Moon Street, the genteel inquisition falls to Caroline Fielding, Charlotte's mother (Charlotte, who must need a bit of rest after so many outings, has been packed off to Paris for a vacation; her presence in the book is restricted to letters marveling, rather tediously, at the scandalous iniquities of the Moulin Rouge dance hall). Perry's readers will no doubt remember that Caroline scandalized society by marrying a much younger actor, Joshua. Half Moon Street introduces Caroline to his theatrical world, and to Cecily Antrim, a beautiful actress with liberal politics. Cecily poses both a personal and philosophical threat to Caroline, who is disturbed by her willingness to expose the realities of female sexuality on stage: "Should such things be said? Was there something indecent in the exposure of feelings so intimate? To know it herself was one thing, to realize that others also knew was quite different. It was being publicly naked rather than privately." This fear of exposure resonates through the worlds of theatrical and photographic art, as actors, diplomats, and genteel citizens race to hide their secrets from Pitt and Caroline.

While Perry evokes the London atmosphere with her usual skill, her narrative lacks its usual finesse. Rather than balancing Pitt's and Caroline's investigation, the novel lurches between them so that it seems all too often that Perry, in pursuit of one story, has forgotten the other. Additionally, Caroline's reaction to feminist politics and sexuality is inexplicably repetitive; her turgid expressions of horror seem the result of an overly eager copy-and-paste procedure. One hopes that this is a momentary lapse in an otherwise solid series. --Kelly Flynn

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:42:05 -0400)

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A bizarre murder on the Thames leads Inspector Thomas Pitt into the shadowy underworld around Victorian London's art district for answers

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