Defend and Betray

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

In DEFEND AND BETRAY, Anne Perry re-creates the oppressive atmosphere of Victorian England, as she did in earlier mysteries featuring Thomas and Charlotte Pitt, such as HIGHGATE RISE and BELGRAVE SQUARE, and in those which introduced Inspector William Monk, THE FACE OF A STRANGER and A DANGEROUS MOURNING. DEFEND AND BETRAY again reveals the extent to which Victorian pride and prudery operated in a judicial system which was supported by the English upper class only as long as it did not threaten their members. Typically, the family of General Thaddeus Carlyon would like to consider his death an accident, not a murder. The police disagree, and when the general’s widow, Alexandra Carlyon, is arrested and confesses to committing the crime, it seems that the best the family can do is to let her be hanged as soon as possible.

Fortunately, Alexandra has a champion, Hester Latterly, who as a nurse in the Crimean War learned to distrust men like the general, whom she had so often seen abusing their power. Certain that Alexandra is persisting in her confession simply in order to shield someone else, Hester obtains the help of her old friends William Monk, now a private investigator, and Oliver Rathbone, a courageous barrister. The novel ends with a sensational trial, which exposes a shocking pattern of betrayal and systematic degradation in the Carlyon circle, thus vindicating the heroic Alexandra and saving her life.