Anne Perry introduces us to a world of illusions, secrets, and
mysteries. This novel is set in Victorian England among London's
upper middle class. It's the first novel featuring Charlotte
Ellison and Thomas Pitt.
The story begins when the daughter of a well-to-do family is
murdered. As an isolated incident in a staid, suburban
neighborhood, it doesn't cause more than a ripple of interest in
Charlotte Ellison's home. Surely, it's only a passing criminal from
a less desirable part of town. When a maid is found murdered on the
same street, the victim is blamed. The Ellison's friends seize on a
new explanation: only the immoral are being targeted. Since the
Ellisons are pattern cards of society, they don't have to worry.
But, when their own maid falls victim to the Cater Street Hangman,
they are forced to help solve the murders.
Inspector Pitt enters the Ellison household looking for answers.
His presence, however, quickly becomes a reminder that everything
is not as it seems in this well-ordered society. His persistent
questions cause the Ellisons to search their hearts, doubt their
loved ones, and, essentially, struggle with issues of faith and
trust. This is the real story and the reason that THE CATER STREET
HANGMAN is a wonderful introduction to protagonists Charlotte and
Anne Perry skillfully exposes the tense undercurrents that run
through the Ellison home and Victorian society. Charlotte (who in
this first novel isn't married to Thomas Pitt) serves as our
representative. She questions the double standard of acceptable
behavior for men and women. She is interested in every subject and
expresses her opinion frequently and honestly. In short, she begins
to see the shortcomings of her superficial and inflexible world ---
voicing them at the same moments we do. Consequently, her character
is sympathetic instead of antiquated.
Inspector Pitt's compassion complements Charlotte's frankness.
Although more of a marginal character, he adds depth to the novel
by providing us with a different view of Victorian England. If the
Ellisons represent the wealthy class, Pitt shows us the poor and
underprivileged. Together, the two are dynamic and engaging,
providing us with more than one reason to read on.
In fact, all of the characters are well drawn. From starch Ellison
patriarch, Edward, to his scheming young daughter, Emily, it seems
Perry has a talent for incorporating every personality type into
her stories. The result is a complete novel with enough depth and
range to sustain an entire series. Mystery fans and those who
simply enjoy good reads should find themselves enthralled with
Charlotte and Thomas Pitt.
Reviewed by Amee Vyas on January 21, 2011