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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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1,0043015,919 (3.69)32
Murders just didn't happen in respectable areas like Callander Square - and yet, there had been two in a short space of time. But Charlotte Pitt was curious. Inspector Pitt's wife had not formed the habit of meddling in her husband's business, but something about this case intrigued her.
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Showing 1-5 of 27 (next | show all)
Two gardeners are digging a hole to plant a bush in the fashionable area of Callander Square, in Victorian England. What they find are two small skeletons buried in the plant beds. On closer examination, they are found to be human babies. Inspector Pitt is called in to handle the case.

The residents of the square are well-to-do and don’t like having police in their midst or poking into their private lives. There are some tawdry secrets that are best not to be revealed. Pitt is aware of this and has to work around it, or there will be serious repercussions.

Pitt’s wife, Charlotte, has married beneath her class. She is a strong willed woman who fell in love with a policeman. She no longer travels in the social circle she once did, but still has contact through her sister, Emily, who’s married to a lord. The two women plan and do their own investigations, unbeknownst to Pitt. While Emily is finding to secrets through her social activities — and there are some doozies — Charlotte takes on a secretarial job with a general who is writing his family’s history. She uses her maiden name and passes herself as unmarried. This gives her some access to the household staff. Between the two, they acquire better information than Pitt.

When Pitt finds out what the ladies are doing, it takes a bit to convince him of the advantage their information gives him. Especially when Emily finds out where a young girl is who is considered to have run away from home to marry some other man.

It is interesting to read of the double standards both men and women observed at this time. In public all is proper, but in private it is quite another world! ( )
  ChazziFrazz | Jul 31, 2021 |
1883 and two gardeners are digging up the beds in Callander Square and discover two bodies of new born babies. Inspector Pitt is called in to investigate. Meanwhile Lady Ashworth persuades her sister Charlotte, wife to Pitt to help in the investigation. Secrets are everywhere in the Square but who are guilty.
An enjoyable Victorian mystery story with likeable characters. ( )
  Vesper1931 | Jul 29, 2021 |
A nice sequel, second in the series, clearly written (the occasional typo, for which I fault her copy editor, if there was one), and with appealing development of the characters we met in the first book. The story is set in a quiet, affluent London square with houses set around a square where bodies were found by gardeners. The author makes good use of her main characters.

I had to write out an index card early on in the book, to keep track of all the various families that inhabit the 7 occupied houses. It's pretty bewildering. Even with the index card for reference, I got people confused, partly because the author laid out a web of relationships and history I had to keep track of, including the disappeared inhabitant of the 8th house. I was able to figure it out by the end of the story, pretty much.

The author does a good job of making the women in the book rounded characters, constrained by the injustices and roles of the period but nonetheless able to take action within those constraints; she didn't make the mistake so many do of giving female characters more physical freedom than actually pertained to them. Her male characters are also not bad, and she manages to convey their unquestioning acceptance of privilege and their condescension to the women in their lives without making them cartoonish. ( )
  dmturner | Jun 29, 2020 |
a chance discovery of two infant bodies leads to a string of tragedies in upper class Victorian London. Insp. Pitts wife assists without his knowledge
  ritaer | Apr 2, 2020 |
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 |
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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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Murders just didn't happen in respectable areas like Callander Square - and yet, there had been two in a short space of time. But Charlotte Pitt was curious. Inspector Pitt's wife had not formed the habit of meddling in her husband's business, but something about this case intrigued her.

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