This series has 32 books, spanning over twenty years all set in the Victorian era (1881 in fact). I'm a bit conflicted about this series. I'm on book six, and I can't decide if I like it or not. I rated the first book as a four (3.5 tbh), and the rest as three. I just don't know if I want to continue on for twenty seven more books. Perry has won the Edgar Award, which is usually a good indication for me. I tend to love Edgar Award winners.
Anne Perry has a different path to authorship than most. I was unaware of her story before reading (she was involved in a murder as a child) and I'm not sure it made a bit of difference to be honest in how I view the work.
Title: The Cater Street Hangman (Thomas and Charlotte Pitt #1)
Author: Anne Perry
Page Number: 288
Genre: murder mystery, historical fiction , fiction
Publisher: Open Road Media, part of Open Road Integrated Media (ORIM)
Year: 2011 (e-book; first published in 1979)
While the Ellison girls were out paying calls and drinking tea like proper Victorian ladies, a maid in their household was strangled to death.
The quiet and young Inspector Pitt investigates the scene and finds no one above suspicion. As his intense questioning causes many a composed facade to crumble, Pitt finds himself curiously drawn to pretty Charlotte Ellison.
Yet, a romance between a society girl and so unsuitable a suitor was impossible in the midst of a murder.
This book (and every book in the series) has different point of views, shifting at the chapters. This doesn't completely bother me, but I'm not entirely in love with it either. I found myself getting slightly annoyed because the shifting points of view would disrupt the flow at times, but at others it would really build the story. The differing POV's also limited the character development, creating a shallowness to all the characters.
This book is about the Ellison family, their servants, and the Inspector that comes into their neighborhood to solve a series of murders. The Ellison family is composed of a city banker father, a mother, a paternal grandmother, three daughters and one son-in-law. They have a butler, a cook, and two maids (or one maid and one kitchen helper). They live on Cater Street, where a woman has just been found garroted in the alley. Inspector Thomas Pitt has been called in to try and solve this murder. While he interviews the family, he meets the middle daughter, Charlotte, and forms an interest in her. Pitt is from a working class background whilst Charlotte is an upper class (but not aristocratic) background, making any romance between them a mesalliance.
While Pitt investigates, many families are loathe to tell him details because of the police class in society and their own interests in keeping any family/servant gossip out of the mainstream. I'm not as knowledgeable in British history as I'd like to be, and I'm not as familiar with all the class issues in history (or even in present day) so I was assuming that much of the tension with Pitt and his investigation came from this. Other women (always women) are found garroted in the street, the victims range from house maids to daughters of wealthy families. There are no witnesses to these crimes, making the investigation difficult.
Neighbors, servants and the Vicar all make appearances. Family secrets come to light and distrust is rampant. The writing was fine, but I found the emotions to be a bit dramatic. Characters are often short tempered and angry over trivial things. Again, I think some of it was having a lower class police officer questioning them, but I found it annoyingly rude to be honest. Eventually, the hangman--as the killer is named--targets one of the Ellison daughters. There's some small investigation by Charlotte and many conversations between her and Pitt about who the hangman could be and what motives they have. Charlotte, through conversations with Pitt, has come to realize that her sheltered life has given her no idea about what causes people to commit crime.
I didn't guess who the killer was (I tend to try not to) and I thought it was a good mystery overall. Pitt and Charlotte fall in love (I suppose romance is hinted but I didn't find it strong at all--this book is overall a Victorian mystery, not a romance). The youngest daughter also is romanced by a Viscount, which is another class hopping marriage.
The book ends abruptly. The crime is solved and the books ends right after that. I didn't like that at all, after reading up to the sixth book I can tell you this is Perry's norm.
The best and worst part of the book happen at the same time. The "motive" of the hangman is revealed because Charlotte idiotically goes out--by herself, at night--when a deranged strangler is roaming around (having already murdered three or four woman, including her own sister). I dislike the heroine throwing herself in danger because of temporary moments of insanity plot devices (AKA the "too stupid to live" plot) in order for the hero to rescue her. Luckily Pitt does, unmasking the hangman and divining the hangman's need to kill. While Pitt is a detective (and Charlotte helps), this is more a mystery with a focus on human nature and the female psyche.
Perry has researched the time period and the morals (and hypocrisy) of the Victorian times. I'm not an expert so any mistakes Perry could have made would have had to be glaring for me to note. I actually have another book in my TBR pile about crime and the "invention" of the popularity of crime stories in the Victorian age.