Ashworth Hall

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

Through sixteen novels featuring Superintendent of Detectives Thomas Pitt and his highborn wife Charlotte, Anne Perry has engrossed readers via her convincing depiction of Victorian morality and behavior, and a regular cast that has grown to include Charlotte’s sister Emily and her second husband, Member of Parliament Jack Radley; Gracie, the Pitts’ maid, and Emily’s Great Aunt Vespasia. In her seventeenth installment, ASHWORTH HALL, Perry deftly adds political intrigue to her already successful craft.

Against the historical backdrop of the divorce trial involving Irish Nationalist Charles Stewart Parnell, the English Home Office asks Jack Radley to open Ashworth Hall to a secret conference at which English and Irish delegations will explore the Irish question of home rule. The conference begins smoothly, but tensions within the Irish delegation boil when devout Protestant Kezia Moynihan discovers an affair between her brother Fergal and Catholic poet Iona McGinley, the wife of Lorcan McGinley. Ainsley Greville, the venerated chief English negotiator, struggles to resume the conference, but is murdered shortly thereafter while bathing.

Thomas Pitt, posing as an English delegate, sheds his cover and learns that the crime may not be politically motivated. The upright Greville was less than a devoted husband: his Irish wife Eudora or their son Piers—who intrudes on the conference with Justine Baring, his new fiancee—may have discovered his numerous affairs. Matters become further complicated when an explosion kills Lorcan McGinley. Are the crimes linked? Was Kezia and her blazing temper involved? Is Finn Hennessy, McGinley’s brooding valet, the culprit? Or was it Carson O’Day, a passionate Nationalist among the Irish delegation? Pitt sifts through the tangled evidence while keeping watch over the surviving delegates. Readers will likely share Pitt’s surprise—and smile at Anne Perry’s artful delivery—when he and Charlotte finally unmask those behind the crimes.