Brunswick Gardens

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

The family of the Reverend Ramsey Parmenter is scattered throughout their gracious home in Victorian London, when their peace is shattered by a shrill cry of “No, No, Reverend!” At the bottom of the staircase lies the body of Unity Bellwood, who had joined the household as transcriptionist for the Reverend. Vita Parmenter, wife of the Reverend, attests that she saw a male figure retreating into the shadows atop the staircase. So begins BRUNSWICK GARDENS, the eighteenth installment in Anne Perry’s remarkable mystery series featuring Superintendent Thomas Pitt of Bow Street, and his highborn wife Charlotte.

Anne Perry invites close examination of Victorian society in her stories. Unity Bellwood, a fervent Darwinist, enjoyed baiting the Reverend and his son Mallory, who has converted to Catholicism, into arguments over the existence of God. Many who know the Reverend claim that he has lost the fire that drove his faith under her ceaseless mocking. Their loud quarrels lead Pitt to view Parmenter as his chief suspect, until he learns that Unity Bellwood was three months with child. The list of suspects grows to include all males beneath the Parmenter roof: the Reverend himself, Mallory, and the resident curate, who trains under Parmenter’s tutelage.

Pitt learns, to his astonishment, that the curate is Dominic Corde, once husband to Charlotte’s slain elder sister Sarah and as such, still Pitt’s own brother-in-law. Pitt finds disturbing incidents in the past that render Corde a viable suspect. His own household is thrown into chaos when Charlotte, who once had a schoolgirl crush on Corde, refuses to believe he is guilty.

Perry capably leads readers through the complexities of love between husband and wife, the strengths and the vulnerabilities of faith, and the tangled trail of evidence that the Pitts must pursue to its startling conclusion in BRUNSWICK GARDENS.