Wednesday, August 24, 2011
The Cater Street Hangman
This is the first novel that Anne Perry published. I expected it to be less polished than the rest of her books. However, it was very good! I can see why this book set her on the road to success.
Most of the story centers around Charlotte Ellison, her sisters Emily and Sarah and their parents. Sarah and her husband Dominic Corde live with the family, as was apparently common back in those days. Charlotte, the second oldest, has a crush on Dominic. Emily is enamored of the rich and handsome George Ashworth. Sarah is content to be the the good wife. Charlotte is outspoken and self assured. She is practical minded and looks at the world with a mind open to new ideas. Emily is similar to Charlotte, but she's much more willing to play the game Victorian society demands of her in order to get what she wants.
In the midst of this setting a murderer begins killing young women on Cater Street. No one particular type of woman is targeted. One victim is the daughter of one of the finer families. The next two victims are servants. Inspector Thomas Pitt is assigned to the case. He comes to the Ellison house to question family and staff.
The theme of class distinction is explored. This is territory that Perry also presented in the early Monk books. In Victorian society, the woman was to be protected and shielded from anything harsh in life. The finer the family, the more sheltered the woman was. The Cater Street Hangman makes the reader wonder if women were more harmed than helped by this attitude.
This is the first book in the Thomas and Charlotte Pitt series. Of course, I knew that Inspector Pitt would end up asking Charlotte to marry him, but it was almost a minor plot point in this book. I suppose in future books their relationship will develop and we will learn more about who they are as a couple.
I really enjoyed The Cater Street Hangman and I look forward to reading more of this series.