Southampton Row

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

Since his initial appearance in Anne Perry’s first novel, The Cater Street Hangman (1979), the young London policeman Thomas Pitt has matured, married, and fathered children. His aristocratic wife Charlotte is an invaluable ally in his battle against crime, for she can move freely in a society that will not admit a mere policeman, and Charlotte is clever enough to make the most of her opportunities.

However, whenever they thwart the plans of the powerful, subversive Inner Circle, the Pitts pay a price. In The Whitechapel Conspiracy (2001), Thomas was removed from his post as superintendent and sent to live in one of London’s worst slums. In Southampton Row, Thomas is ordered to remain behind when his family leaves London for a long-overdue vacation. His Special Branch superior needs help in preventing the Inner Circle leader Charles Voisey from winning an important seat in the upcoming general election. What begins as mere intelligence-gathering, however, evolves into a criminal investigation when the wife of Voisey’s Liberal opponent becomes a suspect in the murder of a fashionable Southampton Row spiritualist. If she is not cleared, Pitt knows, the Tories will win the contested seat.

Meanwhile, Pitt worries about his family, who are being shadowed by agents of the Inner Circle, and about his own career, jeopardized by a plot to have Pitt blamed for another mysterious death. Finally, however, Pitt manages to defeat Voisey, reclaim his own reputation, and insure the future safety of his family. In Southampton Row, again Anne Perry has provided her readers with a complex, well-crafted, and suspenseful story, while revealing the underlying social and political corruption that the Victorians seemed so determined to conceal.