Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Highgate Rise

by Anne Perry
May 29, 2012

The purpose of this blog is just to be a place that I keep track of what I've read and what I thought of it.  I didn't start it with the intention of other people reading it. But, of course, I don't mind at all if others do read my posts. I kind of like the thought that others might be visiting here. So, on the (way) off chance that anyone else is reading these posts, I try never to write spoilers.  Well, I'm breaking that rule today.  Spoilers Below:

I hated the ending of this book.  I picked it up and was only slightly interested at first. It was just the next book on my quest to read all of the Thomas and Charlotte Pitt series. But then it got interesting.  Halfway through I figured out the identity of the murderer and was anxious to find out if I was right.  Turns out I was.  His identity was revealed in dramatic fashion. But then Charlotte ruined it all.

Charles Shaw's wife was killed in a house fire. His best friend was then killed in another fire.  It was arson, of course, and the common denominator was Charles.  Did he do it?  Was he the intended victim?  Turns out he was the intended and the husband of his sister-in-law, Josiah Hatch, was the arsonist/murderer.  See, Clemency  Shaw (Charles' wife) was on a mission to bring reform to property ownership laws. Rich people were buying tenements and, through lawyers, management companies and rent collectors, were kept anonymous. They didn't want anyone to know they were renting to a dozen people per apartment or that they weren't providing water or proper sewage drains.The tenements were moldy and leaky and not fit for human habitation. But humans did inhabit them and the properties made lots and lots of money.  Augustus Worlingham (The Bishop) owned several of these properties.  Although he was long dead, as was his son Theophilus.  Clemency and her sister Prudence Hatch as well as her aunts Angeline and Celeste had inherited  this ill-gotten fortune.  Clemency found out about her grandfather's ownership of the tenements and began to give all of her share away to charity.  She told no one what she found out, but she didn't want any part of it.
Josiah Hatch idolized the Bishop. He hated Charles Shaw because he objected to the new-fangled ideas that Shaw held.  Shaw hated Hatch for his old ideas and his hypocritical attitude.  My theory was that Hatch killed Clemency to keep her from spilling the beans about his beloved Bishop.  In truth, he killed Shaw because he... Well, he can explain it better than I:
"You blasphemer! You deserve to die- I don't know why God has not struck you down. Except that He uses us poor men to do His work...You blasphemer! If I let you live you'll soil every clean and pure thing. You'll spew up your filthy ideas over all the good work that has been done - plant seeds of doubt where there used to be faith. You'll tell your obscene lies about the bishop and make people laugh at him, deride him where they used to revere him....It is better that one man should die than a whole people wither in unbelief. You must be cast out - you pollute and destroy. You should be thrown into the sea - with a millstone 'round your neck. Better you'd never been born than drag other people down to hell with you."
We never get to hear Josiah actually confess, but Charles and Charlotte talk about Josiah's motives. The motive seems to have been that Charles Shaw mocked him and derided the things that he believed in.  Apparently, Charlotte didn't think it had anything to do with Josiah being afraid that the Bishop's ownership of slum tenements would be revealed.
"We quarreled, but it wasn't serious - "  "Not for you."  She found it suddenly very painful to speak. She knew how deeply it would hurt him, and yet she could not evade it. "But you mocked him - "
"Good God, Charlotte - he asked for it! He was a hypocrite - all his values were absurd. He half worshiped old Worlingham, who was a greedy, vicious and thoroughly corrupt man, posing as a saint - and not only robbing people blind but robbing the destitute. Josiah spent his life praising and preaching lies."
"But they were precious to him, " she repeated...We all need our heroes, and our dreams - real or false. And before you destroy someone else's dreams, if they have built their lives on them, you have to put something in their place. Before, Dr. Shaw... Not afterwards."
So, after Charlotte gives her sage advice to Charles she finds Great-Aunt Vespasia who dispenses some of her own wisdom to Charlotte:
"A very dangerous game - the ruin of dreams, however foolish... Too often we think because we cannot see them that they do not have the power to destroy - and yet our lives are built upon them. Poor Hatch - such a deluded man, such false idols. And yet we cannot tear them down with impunity. Shaw has much to account for." "He knows, Charlotte said quietly, raw with regret herself. "I told him so."  Vespasia tightened her hand on Charlotte's. There was no need for words."
What?  Poor Hatch?  He killed two people and destroyed two houses in his quest to kill Charles Shaw over a difference in ideals. Charles has much to answer for?  Why? His wife and his best friend were needlessly killed by someone who felt that he was God's right arm of justice.
Vespasia, when learning of the horrible conditions of the slums and the laws that protected the property owners she said, "Then we must change the law....We will continue where Clemency Shaw was cut off by her murderers." Somerset Carlisle warns her that it may be dangerous and that they'd be disturbing powerful people. That it might involve members of the House, judges of the court. "That is a pity," Vespasia said without even consulting the others by so much as a glance. " But it is irrelevant."
Hmmm. So if any of these powerful people have their dreams ruined by Vespasia's quest to change the law, is it irrelevant or is it "much to account for?"  At one point, right after Charlotte learns about Worlingham's ownership of the slums houses she talks to Vespasia about an attempted duel between Dalgetty and Pascoe.
 "The whole quarrel was about the rights of censorship..."  "Vespasia stood up and walked over towards the window. "I thought it was the question as to whether some men have the right to make mock of other men's gods, because they believe them to be either vicious or absurd - or simply irrelevant."  "One has the right to question them," Charlotte said with irritation. "One must, or there will be no progress of ideas, no reforming. The most senseless ideologies could be taught and if we cannot challenge them, how are we to know whether they are good or evil? How can we test our ideas except by thinking - and talking?"  
Vespasia goes on to tell her that there are many ways of challenging or questioning ideas but there are many ways of doing it. "And we must take responsibility for what we destroy, as well as what we create."
So I suppose at the end the sanctimonious Charlotte was lecturing Charles based on this little lecture that Vespasia gives to her.
But later, Charlotte goes to see Angeline and Celeste. She doesn't tell them that their father owned slums, but she does describe in great detail what the slums are and how much she admires Clemency Shaw for her crusade to change the laws. Prudence Hatch and Lally Clitheridge arrive and Charlotte further provkes them with talk of slums and reform. She insults Prudence and Lally. Angeline and Celeste obviously know nothing about life beyond the walls of their own house, but it doesn't stop Charlotte from stomping on their antiquated notions by telling them all about the slums.

I was so angry at Charlotte for lecturing Charles, a man who suffered the loss of everything he held dear. I was angry at her for her pity for Hatch, a prudish, uptight, judgmental murderer.  Mrs. Monk would never have said those things to Charles. She would have been helping to haul Josiah off to jail.

Hmmph.  Charlotte is going to have to win back my favor in the next book.

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