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The Cater Street Hangman
The First Charlotte and Thomas Pitt Novel
By Anne Perry

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The Cater Street Hangman

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The Cater Street Hangman
The First Charlotte and Thomas Pitt Novel
By Anne Perry
Center Point Large Print, (2002)
ISBN: 1-58547-002-3
Genre: Mystery, Historical Fiction

Reviewed by Rochelle Caviness - June 12, 2002

When I first picked up The Cater Street Hangman, I already had an idea of the type of book it would be. As it was obviously a Victorian mystery, I fully expected the heroine to be a strong willed, yet a rather mild-mannered proper English lady who was more interested in finding a wealthy husband than solving a mystery. To my pleasure, I found that I was totally wrong.

The heroine of The Cater Street Hangman is Charlotte Ellison. Still unmarried at the ripe old age of 23, Charlotte lives at home with her extended family. A family which includes her brother-in-law Dominic, for whom she has the most improper feelings. Charlotte is a member of the upper middle class, and has had a proper upbringing for a young woman in 1881 England, yet she doesn't fit the Victorian stereotype. Were she to run across any of the heroines from the novels of Jane Austen, they would find her most unsuitable and most likely, shocking. Charlotte is opinionated, and she does a poor job of keeping her opinions, and her feelings to herself. In short, Charlotte is slightly out of step with the rest of society.

Charlotte's life undergoes a drastic change when a series of murders are committed. Among the dead is Chloe Abernathy, the respectable daughter of a neighbor, and a neighbor's maid. When the killer next strikes, the Ellison household is thrown into disarray as the victim is their housemaid, Lily. Alone at home when she learns of Lily's death, Charlotte's sends for the police, who arrives in the form of Inspector Thomas Pitt.

As with Charlotte, in Pitt, Anne Perry has created an intriguing character. In many ways Pitt reminds me of Columbo, both detectives dress slovenly, and are always underestimated by those around them. Socially, Pitt is beneath Charlotte's notice, but little by little they come to see that they have more in common than first appearances would suggest.

Lily is not the last to die. And, Perry does a fine job of building up the tension in the story and in illustrating how everyone rapidly comes under suspicions as fear grips the residents of Cater Street. Perry also adroitly provides Charlotte and Pitt the opportunity to work together to discover who the murderer is, and their true feelings for each other.

This is a delightful book that is fast paced, and which has an intriguing and satisfying ending. It is also a well-plotted mystery that has a lot of fun poking fun at Victorian mores. The Cater Street Hangman is the first Anne Perry book that I have read, but it will not be the last. And, boy do I have a lot of catching up to do. With the recent release of The Whitechapel Conspiracy, there are now 21 books in the Charlotte and Thomas Pitt series, of which The Cater Street Hangman is the first volume.

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