Review: Death with a Double Edge by Anne Perry

Review: Death with a Double Edge by Anne PerryDeath with a Double Edge (Daniel Pitt #4) by Anne Perry
Format: eARC
Source: supplied by publisher via Edelweiss
Formats available: hardcover, large print, paperback, ebook, audiobook
Genres: historical fiction, historical mystery
Series: Daniel Pitt #4
Pages: 304
Published by Ballantine Books on April 13, 2021
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKoboBook Depository
Goodreads

Daniel Pitt's investigation into his colleague's murder leads him through London's teeming underbelly to the suspicious dealings of one of England's most influential shipbuilding magnates in a thrilling novel from New York Times bestselling author Anne Perry.
When junior barrister Daniel Pitt is summoned to the scene of a murder in the London district known as Mile End, he knows only that the victim is a senior barrister from the same firm. To Daniel's relief, it is not his close friend Toby Kitteridge, but the question remains: What was this respected colleague doing in such a rough part of the city? The firm's head, Marcus fford Croft, may know more than he admits, but fford Croft's memory is not what it used to be, and his daughter, Miriam--Daniel's friend and sometime sidekick--isn't in the country to offer her usual help. And so Daniel and Kitteridge must investigate on their own, lest the police uncover something that may cast a suspicious light on the firm.
Their inquiries in Mile End lead them to a local brothel and to an opium den, but also--unexpectedly--to a wealthy shipbuilder crucial to Britain's effort to build up its fleet, which may soon face the fearsome naval might of Germany. Daniel finds his path blocked by officials at every turn, his investigation so unwelcome that even his father, Special Branch head Thomas Pitt, receives a chilling warning from a powerful source. Suddenly, not just Daniel but his whole family--including his beloved mother, Charlotte--is in danger. Will Daniel's devotion to justice be the undoing of his entire life, and endanger Britain's defense at sea? As ever, the fates of family and history are inextricably intertwined in this spellbinder from Anne Perry.

My Review:

For all of its early-20th century setting, Death with a Double Edge is a story about power and privilege that could take place here and now as easily and as effectively as there and then.

Not just because many of the trappings of that time could be easily extrapolated to the present. And certainly not just because human nature doesn’t seem to have changed much in millennia, let alone in a mere century.

But because all of the causes of the series of crimes that keep pushing this story and this case forward, and especially because all of the reasons for officialdom to turn a blind eye, happened then, happen now, and quite probably will go right on happening ad infinitum, ad nauseum.

A young woman is beaten to death. A young man is accused of killing her. A lawyer defends him and the system seems to be working as it should. But when the accused is exonerated and both he and his lawyer are also killed it shines a bright light onto a dark deed that no one seems to have wanted to investigate too closely.

The young woman was a nobody with a “bad” reputation who was killed at a “fast” party. The young man’s father was rich and influential, meaning that he had the money to pay for an excellent lawyer – which he did. Although this was a case where justice was actually not bought. The young man was innocent – merely convenient.

It’s only when the lawyer turns up dead of a slit throat that Daniel Pitt enters the case. Because the lawyer was a senior member of his own chambers (read that as law firm) and the man’s death opens up every case he ever worked so that the chambers can make sure that all of his unfinished cases are taken care of. And so that it can make sure that its own hands are clean.

And that’s where things get interesting – and very nearly go pear-shaped. Daniel Pitt, still rather young and idealistic in spite of his profession, is stuck investigating men he respects and even in some cases, reveres. He’s all too aware that murder investigations uncover dirt that may have nothing to do with the crime being investigated but are still dirty and have the potential to ruin reputations and lives – possibly even his own.

He doesn’t want to discover that those he respects have played fast and loose with the law they’ve all sworn to defend. So much of this case is about Daniel’s loss of innocence.

At the same time, this operates on a second level. Because Daniel, as he often does, bounces ideas off of his father, Sir Thomas Pitt, now the Head of Special Branch. These days, the elder Pitt investigates terrorism and treason, but once upon a time he was a beat cop. His experience makes him an excellent, if sometimes involved, sounding board for his son.

But Daniel’s investigation wanders too near that accused young man’s wealthy father, and the elder Pitt is officially warned off. Repeatedly. Even as the case draws tighter around this wealthy man who has money, power, and influence – and whose business is building ships that the British Navy is going to need for the war that is coming.

Officialdom wants this case to die quietly, because Britain needs those ships. But neither Pitt can stop asking questions, because the law they both serve says that one murder is too many to overlook.

No matter what the powers-that-be are willing to tolerate for “the greater good”.

Escape Rating A-: The story of Thomas Pitt and his wife Charlotte – who met over the body of her murdered sister – are the featured characters in the author’s long running series that begins with The Cater Street Hangman. During the course of that series this mismatched pair, gamekeeper’s son Thomas and aristocratic daughter Charlotte, met, married and solved cases together as Charlotte adjusted to living as a cop’s wife and Thomas rose in rank, got himself fired because he has always been incapable of looking the other way, and then rose in rank again to become the Head of Special Branch.

In the details of their life together we meet all of their children, so it was lovely when their son Daniel became the focus of this new series in Twenty-One Days.

While I think Daniel’s series stands separately from his parents’, just as Daniel has begun a new life on his own as a young lawyer, there are plenty of hints from his parents’ storied past threaded through Daniel’s own series, just as our lives are influenced by our own parents, whether for good or for ill. Meaning that if you haven’t read the earlier series (I haven’t read them all but I read many once upon a time), you won’t feel left behind because enough of the details are present in their son’s series. But I remember the whole series VERY fondly.

But this feels like the first time that Thomas has had an actual full-on case arise from Daniel’s legal and investigative practice, and this series and its characters feels like it is established enough that Thomas’ case complements his son’s without overshadowing it – although some of the events that occur nearly bring both of them to their knees.

Everything in the story turns on power and privilege. Daniel fears that his late colleague cut corners in the law, and that he’ll be the one to uncover it. He is also mortally afraid that a man he reveres has allowed those corners to be cut, whether out of greed or because he is no longer capable of managing the chambers that he founded.

Daniel knows that justice can be bought and paid for by the rich and powerful, but he fears that the firm he hoped to spend his career in has been complicit. Even worse, that the father of his dearest friend has aided and abetted the practice.

Thomas, on the other hand, fears that the government that he serves is willing to condone and cover up multiple murders – and he is unwilling – in fact constitutionally unable – to allow it. He knows that the time to stop evil is when it is smaller and weaker – not after it’s been allowed to commit larger and worser acts and has become too powerful to overcome.

What keeps this story going is the way that, as the investigation continues, and the noose seems to close around the one neck that the government wants to pretend is not a suspect, the danger to everyone around both Daniel and Thomas Pitt grows ever greater. As the story becomes a race against time, the reader can’t turn the pages fast enough.

Who done it is easy to guess. Whether they will pay the price for doing it is the question that drives the story – and drives it very hard indeed.

Review: A Question of Betrayal by Anne Perry

Review: A Question of Betrayal by Anne PerryA Question of Betrayal (Elena Standish) by Anne Perry
Format: eARC
Source: supplied by publisher via NetGalley
Formats available: hardcover, paperback, large print, ebook, audiobook
Genres: espionage, historical fiction, historical mystery, suspense, thriller, World War II
Series: Elena Standish #2
Pages: 304
Published by Ballantine Books on September 8, 2020
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKoboBook Depository
Goodreads

On her first mission for MI6, the daring young photographer at the heart of this thrilling new mystery series by bestselling author Anne Perry travels to Mussolini's Italy to rescue the lover who betrayed her.
Britain's secret intelligence service, MI6, has lost contact with its informant in northern Italy, just as important information about the future plans of Austria and Nazi Germany is coming to light. And young Elena Standish, to her surprise, is the only person who can recognize MI6's man--because he is her former lover. Aiden Strother betrayed her six years before, throwing shame on her entire family. Now, with so much to prove, Elena heads to Trieste to track down Aiden and find out what happened to his handler, who has mysteriously cut off contact with Britain.
As Elena gets word of a secret group working to put Austria in the hands of Germany, her older sister, Margot, is in Berlin to watch a childhood friend get married--to a member of the Gestapo. Margot and Elena's grandfather, the former head of MI6, is none too happy about the sisters' travels at this tumultuous time, especially when a violent event at home reminds him that even Britain is growing dangerous. As his own investigation collides with his granddaughter's, what's at stake on the continent becomes increasingly frightening--and personal.
Against the backdrop of a rapidly changing Europe, New York Times bestselling author Anne Perry crafts a novel full of suspense, political intrigue, and the struggle between love and loyalty to country.

My Review:

The terrific first book in the Elena Standish series, Death in Focus, was an espionage thriller wrapped around a traditional mystery, set in a changing Europe in the years between the Great War and World War II.

The years while Hitler was on his rise to power, the years when those with eyes to see were aware that a second war was on the horizon – no matter how badly they wanted that not to be true. And no matter how many people were willing to compromise anything and everything to keep the fragile peace at ANY cost.

But this second book in the series, set just a few months after the events of Death in Focus, is unquestionably all about the spy games. Not that there aren’t plenty of mysterious things happening, but those mysteries are wrapped around Elena’s mission – to rescue a spy that her government planted six years ago in Austria so that they could have someone on the “inside” if things went the direction that was feared.

Aiden Strother was in deep cover, but his “handler” is dead and his mission is compromised. Someone needs to go to Trieste, warn him, get him out if possible and his information out no matter what. And Elena is the best operative MI6 has for the job – no matter how new she is to the job.

She knows Strother on sight. And he’ll trust her, for the contacts he knows she has in the Foreign Service and MI6, if not for the relationship they once had. Once upon a time, they were lovers. Until Strother stole secrets from the Service and went over to the Austrians, burning Elena’s career in the process.

Now Elena learns he was tasked with becoming a double agent, setup by MI6 to pretend to betray the British. Elena’s career was merely collateral damage to MI6. Even if her grandfather was once the head of the organization. Or perhaps especially because, as Lucas Standish’ successor will do anything to erase the man’s shadow.

But this is a spy game from beginning to end, and nothing is quite as it seems. Not Aiden Strother, not Jerome Bradley, current head of MI6, not the situation in Trieste, and especially not Elena Standish. Whatever she may once have been, whatever she may once have felt, Elena’s experiences in Berlin at the hands of the Gestapo in Death in Focus have changed her focus.

Elena will do what she must, even if she must commit murder, all alone in the dark. After all, all is fair in love and war. And this is war, even if it is conducted in the shadows.

Escape Rating A-: My feelings about this book are somewhat paradoxical. On the one hand, I found it even more compelling than the first book. On the other, I feel like I have even less of a grasp of Elena’s character than I did in that first book. So I felt driven to keep turning the pages, but it wasn’t Elena’s story that I was turning those pages for. Definitely a paradox as this is supposed to be Elena’s journey and Elena’s series – or it should be as it is named for her.

(I’ve read at least some of three of the author’s previous historical mystery series, and all of those, Charlotte and Thomas Pitt, Daniel Pitt, and William Monk, are all unquestionably about the people they’re named for.)

So even though Elena was the one in danger, it was her grandfather Lucas and her sister Margot who seemed to have more compelling narratives. Or perhaps it’s that their stories felt like they had a broader focus on conditions in general. Elena’s story, although it did have implications for the war that no one wants to see on the horizon, was, of necessity, more tightly focused on her need to find Strother and convince him to leave or at least get his information out, while the Fatherland Front for the Nazis in Austria did its best and worst to kill them.

And while Elena’s feelings about Strother complicate her perspective on what’s really going on, both in general and between them in particular. Even though Elena has grown up a bit from the first book, she still reads as a bit naive and much too wrapped inside her own head to be actually good at the job. Although she’s learning, she’s still too emotionally conflicted to draw me in the way that Maisie Dobbs or Bess Crawford do in their respective series. (And they are all readalikes for each other, so if you like one give the others a try!)

Meanwhile, her sister Margot returns to Berlin to attend a friend’s wedding to a young German officer. Because it’s not Margot herself who is directly involved, she has a much clearer picture of the true state of affairs as she watches her friend marry someone who is such a fanatic that Hitler is practically a guest at the wedding, while both the bride and her parents desperately hope that this marriage will protect her and them in the storm to come. So many people on all sides of the wedding seem much more clear-eyed on what the future will bring than Elena playing spy games in Trieste.

But the part of the story that really grabbed my attention was Lucas Standish’ part of the story. He’s supposed to be retired from MI6, but he still has his hand, possibly both hands, into the service that he led for so long. He sees the war coming, and also sees that there are too many in Britain who are so weary of the cost of war that they will rationalize any atrocity in Germany in order to keep their heads in the sand.

And that there are an entirely too well placed few who believe that Germany has the right idea, and that Hitler’s Germany would be a natural ally for Britain. That the atrocities committed by Hitler’s Germany are not merely necessary but are actually a good start to the eradication of people that too many Britons, as well as Germans, believe are less than human.

While Elena is rescuing a spy, and Margot is supporting a friend at the outset of a terrible journey, Lucas is on the hunt for one of those Britons who wants to ally directly with Hitler’s Germany and not only supports his tyranny but possibly wants to import it. And is using MI6, a service that Lucas still loves, in order to subvert the expressed policy of the government.

Lucas is hunting for a traitor who has his eyes on Lucas’ country and his family. His part of the story, figuring out who the traitor is and convincing enough people in high places to root him out is the part of the story that took me for the biggest thrill ride.

So, I’m compelled to continue following the “Standish Saga” as the spy games continue leading straight into the war we all know is coming – even if the character the series is named for is not the character I’m following the series for.

Review: One Fatal Flaw by Anne Perry

Review: One Fatal Flaw by Anne PerryOne Fatal Flaw: A Daniel Pitt Novel by Anne Perry
Format: eARC
Source: supplied by publisher via NetGalley
Formats available: hardcover, large print, ebook, audiobook
Genres: historical fiction, historical mystery, mystery
Series: Daniel Pitt #3
Pages: 320
Published by Ballantine Books on April 7th 2020
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKoboBook Depository
Goodreads

Two fiery deaths have young lawyer Daniel Pitt and his scientist friend Miriam fford Croft racing to solve a forensic crisis in this explosive new novel from New York Times bestselling author Anne Perry.

When a desperate woman comes to Daniel Pitt seeking a lawyer for her boyfriend, Rob Adwell, Daniel is convinced of the young man's innocence. Adwell has been accused of murder and of setting a fire to conceal the body, but Daniel is sure that science can absolve him--and Miriam fford Croft is the best scientist he knows. Miriam connects Daniel with her former teacher Sir Barnabas Saltram, an expert in arson, and together, they reveal Adwell's innocence by proving that an accidental fire caused the victim's death. But it's not long before Adwell is killed in the same fiery fashion. If these deaths are, in fact, murders, what essential clue could Daniel and Miriam have missed?

As their investigation deepens, one of Saltram's former cases comes into question, and Miriam finds herself on the defensive. If the reasoning Saltram used in that case is proved false, several other cases will have to be re-tried, and Saltram's expert status--not to mention Miriam's reputation--will be ruined. Haunted by Saltram's shady tactics in and outside of the classroom, Miriam is desperate to figure out truths both past and present and protect herself in the face of Saltram's lies. What started as an accidental fire in Adwell's case seems to be linked to a larger plot for revenge, with victims accumulating in its wake, and Miriam and Daniel must uncover who or what is stoking these recurring flames--before they, too, find themselves burned.

My Review:

It’s not so much a fatal flaw that’s at the heart of this mystery, but rather one of the seven deadly sins. They say that “pride goeth before a fall” and that’s certainly true in the case of Sir Barnabas Saltram, who turns out to be the villain of this piece – without ever being one of the criminals that Daniel Pitt defends in court.

Not that he shouldn’t be.

But the case doesn’t begin with the villain. Well, it doesn’t exactly begin with the villain, and in the beginning we neither know that he’s the villain or expect him to keep showing up in the story, very much like the proverbial bad penny.

There’s more than one of those, too.

In the beginning, there’s a young woman playing on Daniel Pitt’s soft heart, begging him to defend her sweetheart who has been charged with murder. Also literally begging, as Jessie Beale expects Pitt to take the case pro bono.

Jessie did an excellent job of picking her mark, because he does, dragging the rest of his colleagues and friends along with him. And that’s where the villain comes in.

Because the murder victim died in a fire that seems to have been deliberately set, while the victim and the accused were somewhere they shouldn’t have been doing something they shouldn’t have been doing. In other words, they were trespassing while planning a crime, and death that occurs while in the commission of another crime is murder – even if that death was not intended.

The only way that Rob Adwell can get out of this frame is if an expert testifies that the blow to the back of the deceased’s head wasn’t actually a blow. And there’s one expert who can make that assertion in court and make it stick. Sir Barnabas Saltram has made his career out of making such assertions and getting juries to believe them.

He might even be right – this time.

But when a second death occurs in exactly the same manner as the first, with exactly the same players involved – except for the original victim – it begins to look like Saltram may not be as unassailable an expert as everyone once believed.

Assailing that reputation feels like tilting at a windmill. But it’s the only thing that Daniel Pitt can do to make sure that justice is done. No matter the cost.

Escape Rating A: I was absolutely enthralled by the convolutions of this story, and read it in a single day, dipping back into it whenever I had a minute. I don’t think I’m doing the twists and turns of this case nearly enough justice, and honestly I don’t think the blurb does either. It’s a roller coaster of a story, complete with twists and turns and sudden stops that feel like you’re going to be flung off the track – only for the car to set itself back on its wheels and go careening around another breathless turn.

A big part of what makes this story, and the rest of the series, work so well is its portrait of the lawyer as a young man. Daniel Pitt, the beloved son of Charlotte and Thomas Pitt, the protagonists of their own long-running series (begin with The Cater Street Hangman) is only 25 as the series opened in Twenty-One Days. He’s still 25, and it’s still 1910 in this third book, after last year’s Triple Jeopardy – which would also have been a great title for this one.

(You don’t have to read his parents’ series to get into Daniel’s. Twenty-One Days was a very fresh start. I’m not sure that you have to have read the first two in order to get into this one, but if you read one and love it as much as I do, you’ll also love the others.)

But Daniel as the protagonist is a VERY young man and very early in his career. He makes a LOT of mistakes. Even when he gets his clients off. Perhaps especially when he gets his clients off, as occurs in this one. His naivete gets taken advantage of, frequently and often. But he learns from each occasion. He’s interesting to watch because he’s legally an adult while still being aware – or forced to become aware – of just how much he has to learn.

At the same time, he’s still young enough to still have that “fire in the belly” to bring about justice at any cost – even a cost to himself or to those he cares for.

Another thing that makes this series so fascinating is that it takes place in a world on the cusp of change, and has the opportunity to both show what is changing and exhibit the forces that are arrayed against that change.

At the center of many of those changes is the person and career of Daniel’s friend, the daughter of the head of his legal chambers, Miriam fford Croft. Miriam is a forensic scientist who was not allowed to sit for her degrees, nor is she permitted to practice, because she is female. At 40 to Daniel’s 25, in this story she comes to the hard realization that change, while it is coming, will not come soon enough for her. She has to find a way to contribute and participate and do the science that she loves, and make sure that it is useful, even if it cannot be under her own banner. It’s a hard lesson, one that is made all the more poignant in this case as her achievements are called into question by a man who cannot bear to be challenged by any woman, particularly her.

Speaking of Miriam, who is certainly an important character in the series as a whole and particularly in this story, all of the US covers for this series (so far) have emphasized her character, while the series is definitely Daniel’s from beginning to end. This is one of those cases where the UK covers (below) are much better and more true to the series.

 

However one looks at, this is a terrific series both as legal thriller/mystery and as historical fiction/mystery. It contains well-drawn and interesting characters, solves convoluted cases with both wit and heart, and does an excellent job of portraying the era in which it is set. A winner all the way around.

If Daniel’s series continues as long as his parents’ series (32 books and counting) it will make me one very happy reader!

Review: Death in Focus by Anne Perry

Review: Death in Focus by Anne PerryDeath in Focus (Elena Standish #1) by Anne Perry
Format: eARC
Source: supplied by publisher via Edelweiss, supplied by publisher via NetGalley
Formats available: hardcover, large print, paperback, ebook, audiobook
Genres: historical fiction, historical mystery, World War I, World War II
Series: Elena Standish #1
Pages: 320
Published by Ballantine Books on September 17, 2019
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKoboBook Depository
Goodreads

In the start of an all-new mystery series set in pre-World War II Europe, an intrepid young photographer carries her dead lover's final, world-shattering message into the heart of Berlin as Hitler ascends to power.

On vacation from London on the beautiful Italian coast, twenty-eight-year-old Elena Standish and her older sister, Margot, have finally been able to move on from the lasting trauma of the Great War, in which the newly married Margot lost her husband and the sisters their beloved brother. Touring with her camera in hand, Elena has found new inspiration in the striking Italian landscape, and she's met an equally striking man named Ian. When Ian has to leave unexpectedly, Elena--usually the more practical of the sisters--finds she's not ready to part from him, and the two share a spontaneous train trip home to England. But a shocking sequence of events disrupts their itinerary, forcing Elena to personally deliver a message to Berlin on Ian's behalf, one that could change the fate of Europe.

Back home, Elena's diplomat father and her secretive grandfather--once head of MI6, unbeknownst to his family--are involved in their own international machinations. Worried when Elena still hasn't returned from Italy, her grandfather starts to connect the dots between her change in plans and an incident in Berlin, where Adolf Hitler and the Third Reich are on the rise. It seems the message Elena delivered has forced her into a dangerous predicament, and her grandfather's old contacts from MI6 may be the only people who can get her out alive--if Elena can tell the difference between her allies and her enemies.

New York Times bestselling author Anne Perry merges family secrets with suspense on the world stage, as darkness bubbles under the surface of a Europe on the brink of change. In these complicated times, Elena emerges as a strong new heroine who learns quickly that when nothing is certain, she can rely only on herself.

My Review:

Today is Veterans Day in the U.S. and Remembrance Day in the U.K. and other Commonwealth countries. On this day in 1919, “at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month”, the guns of World War I finally went silent.

I don’t usually post a review on this day, but this marvelous book dropped into my lap, and it seemed so perversely relevant to the day that I couldn’t help myself.

Death in Focus does not take place during the Great War, but the war and its aftermath directly influences everything that happens within it. Both because all of the characters are still scarred by the war well over a decade later, but also because the seeds of World War II were sown in the treaty that ended World War I.

But that’s something that is taken as a given now. One of the things that underpins this story is that those seeds were sown on both sides of that first conflict. The punishing reparations inflicted upon Germany as the losing side set up the desperate economic conditions that fueled Hitler’s rise to power.

The brutal death toll on the winning side, particularly in Great Britain, led to the tragic appeasement tactics of the interwar years. Britain had lost an entire generation of young men, and few of the survivors were willing to entertain the possibility that all of those sacrifices might be in vain. Many, including those in government, were willing to tolerate anything, no matter how heinous, in order to preserve the fragile peace.

Not that there weren’t plenty of people in Britain, including Duke of Windsor (the former King Edward VIII) who sympathized with entirely too many of Hitler’s goals, including the concept of the Aryans as the so-called “master race” along with the willingness to eliminate any people who were not part of that “race”. A belief that led to the concentration camps and the gas chambers.

While Death in Focus doesn’t deal directly with the factions in Britain who believed that the concentration camp opened at Dachau in 1933 (when this story takes place) were just a good start, it does give insight into those, both in government and out, who simply could not face the idea of another war because they lost so much in the last war and couldn’t even bear the idea of doing it again.

So, the story of Death in Focus operates on two fronts. One is the story that follows Elena Standish as she finds herself in the midst of Nazi Germany on the run from both the Gestapo and the British Foreign Service, betrayed by her own country and framed for a crime that she did not commit.

Meanwhile, back on the home front, her father and grandfather are at loggerheads, and not just about Elena’s current plight.

Her father is a senior official in the diplomatic service who is certain that his father, a paper pusher during the first war, can’t possibly know what the current situation in Germany – or anywhere else – is really like. That the old man can’t possibly understand why so many, including himself, will do anything to prevent another war. And that both Hitler and Mussolini are actually doing good things for their countries that shouldn’t be interfered with from the outside.

But granddad is actually the retired head of MI6. He knows perfectly well what happened during the first war, and still has his finger on the pulse of current events around the world. He is certain that another war is coming and is beyond worried that his beloved granddaughter seems to have been unwittingly caught up in it.

Escape Rating A: As much as I got completely wrapped up in this story, I have to admit that what grabbed me wasn’t Elena, even though this is the first book in a projected series that will follow her exploits.

Exploits that remind me more than a bit of those of Maisie Dobbs, particularly in Journey to Munich, where Maisie was undercover in Nazi Germany in 1938. Although Maisie’s official cover doesn’t fail quite as badly as the way that Elena gets dumped in the soup.

Instead, the fascination for me with Death in Focus was on the home front, with her grandfather’s internal conflict. He has kept his secrets for so long, to the point where he and his son have become estranged, because he knows the war is coming and his son, in grief over his own wartime losses, needs desperately to stick his head in the sand and believe that the peace will last. Their characters and their dilemma resonated more for me, perhaps because they felt more fully developed as characters. Elena, like Maisie Dobbs in the first book in her series, has a lot of development yet to come.

In spite of his diplomatic service, her father doesn’t see what is going on because he doesn’t want to see. And in his willful blindness we see the same in plenty of others, including the government of Neville Chamberlain. Hindsight is not only 20/20, but it is downright painful.

At the same time, this is a murder mystery. Elena seems to be trailing dead bodies behind her, and she doesn’t know why. She only knows that she herself is not the killer. So there is a traditional mystery to solve, albeit in very nontraditional circumstances.

In the end, many characters discover that things are not quite as they seem. Including everything that Elena believed about her trip to Berlin and what she discovered. And that while revenge is still a dish best served cold, sometimes the chef for that dish misjudges their enemies and finds themselves served instead.

Review: Triple Jeopardy by Anne Perry + Giveaway

Review: Triple Jeopardy by Anne Perry + GiveawayTriple Jeopardy (Daniel Pitt #2) by Anne Perry
Format: eARC
Source: supplied by publisher via Edelweiss
Formats available: hardcover, large print, paperback, ebook, audiobook
Genres: historical mystery
Series: Daniel Pitt #2
Pages: 320
Published by Ballantine Books on April 9, 2019
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKoboBook Depository
Goodreads

Young lawyer Daniel Pitt must defend a British diplomat accused of a theft that may cover up a deadly crime in this riveting novel from the New York Times bestselling author of Twenty-one Days.

Daniel Pitt, along with his parents, Charlotte and Thomas, is delighted that his sister, Jemima, and her family have returned to London from the States for a visit. But the Pitts soon learn of a harrowing incident: In Washington, D.C., one of Jemima's good friends has been assaulted and her treasured necklace stolen. The perpetrator appears to be a man named Philip Sidney, a British diplomat stationed in America's capital who, in a cowardly move, has fled to London, claiming diplomatic immunity. But that claim doesn't cover his other crimes. . . .

When Sidney winds up in court on a separate charge of embezzlement, it falls to Daniel to defend him. Daniel plans to provide only a competent enough defense to avoid a mistrial, allowing the prosecution to put his client away. But when word travels across the pond that an employee of the British embassy in Washington has been found dead, Daniel grows suspicious about Sidney's alleged crimes and puts on his detective hat to search for evidence in what has blown up into an international affair.

As the embezzlement scandal heats up, Daniel takes his questions to intrepid scientist Miriam fford Croft, who brilliantly uses the most up-to-date technologies to follow an entirely new path of investigation. Daniel and Miriam travel to the Channel Islands to chase a fresh lead, and what began with a stolen necklace turns out to have implications in three far greater crimes--a triple jeopardy, including possible murder.

Advance praise for Triple Jeopardy

"Readers may find themselves smitten with Daniel and with the dauntless Miriam fforde Croft, whose relationship with Daniel deepens in this episode. . . . Primarily identified for her authentic period sets and well-rendered characters, Perry writes in what she has called the 'Put Your Heart on the Page' method, with the focus placed squarely on what happens to people under the pressure of investigation. This book is an excellent example of her craft."--Booklist

"Veteran Perry dials back the period detail and the updates on the lives of the continuing characters to focus on one of her most teasing mysteries, this time with a courtroom finale that may be her strongest ever."--Kirkus Reviews

My Review:

In my review of the first Daniel Pitt story, Twenty-One Days, I said that Daniel, his cast of irregulars, and the methods they use to discover the truth reminded me more than a bit of the Canadian TV series Murdoch Mysteries.

That’s still very much true in Daniel’s second outing, along with more than a bit of Law and Order UK, perhaps as the early 20th century edition. Perhaps with a bit of the Bess Crawford mystery book series, or the early adventures of Maisie Dobbs.

While Daniel Pitt is a (very junior) practicing lawyer, the year is 1910, and the case he is involved in has ties to the police, both in America and in England. It is also ultimately connected to the war with Germany that can be seen on the darkening horizon by those who are willing to look.

Not that Daniel sees the larger picture at the beginning. The case starts out rather small – and rather close to home.

His older sister Jemima, along with her American husband Patrick and their two little girls, have come to London to visit the family. Along with a story to tell that is not exactly their own.

A friend of Jemima’s was assaulted in the middle of the night in her own bedroom in Washington D.C. A necklace of little financial value but great sentimental attachment was ripped from her neck. Her screams brought her parents down the hall, and they identified her attacker as a young man of their acquaintance. A man who served as a junior functionary at the British Embassy.

The man claimed diplomatic immunity and fled to his home shores, followed in short order by Jemima and her family, the victim and her family, and papers proving that the young man committed embezzlement during his posting at the Embassy.

It may not be possible to try him in America for his assault on the young women, but it is definitely possible for him to be tried for stealing money from the Crown – no matter how small the amounts.

Daniel Pitt finds himself in the case up to the neck – his own if not his client’s. At first he believes the man is guilty – if not of the embezzlement then certainly of the assault. But the more he digs into the case – and the better he gets to know his client – the more he realizes that nothing about the entire thing makes any sense at all.

Not the original assault, not the embezzlement, and not the murder of the poor clerk who discovered the financial irregularities. Unless there’s something hidden underneath it all. And that the “original” assault was not the originating event at all – but instead the first in a series of increasingly desperate cover ups.

Daniel will have to dig deeply in order to find the answer. Very deeply indeed – both into the past and under the ocean – in order to come at the truth.

Escape Rating A: Reminiscent of the first book in this series, Daniel comes to this case through a family connection. And much of his internal tension throughout his investigation revolves around that family.

Initially, everyone is sure that the accused is guilty, if not of the financial misappropriations, then of the much more serious assault – a charge that cannot be brought forward in law. At the same time, once Daniel takes the case, he has to defend his client to the best of his ability, both to prevent a mistrial and in order to be able to live with himself.

But he’s caught on the horns of a dilemma – his introduction to this mess is through his brother-in-law the American cop. He fears that Patrick may have had something to do with the evidence of embezzlement arriving almost out of nowhere, and he fears alienating his sister if he makes that accusation plain.

At the same time Jemima is having her own doubts, both about her husband’s involvement in the case as well as whether her friend should push for the circumstances to be made public. Even though nothing happened beyond the theft of the necklace, the rumors that will follow the young woman for the rest of her life over this will be vicious and will never go completely away.

What makes the story work so well is the character of Daniel himself. We know what he came from, his parents were the protagonists in this author’s long-running and much-beloved historical mystery series named for them, Charlotte and Thomas Pitt.

Their series begins with The Cater Street Hangman and follows the romance and eventual marriage between Thomas, police detective and gamekeeper’s son and Charlotte, a daughter of the aristocracy. During that series, Thomas rises from detective to his position in 1910, head of Special Branch, the police department that deals with terrorism and treason.

But Daniel Pitt is very young, both as a man and as a lawyer. He often finds himself in over his head, and feels constrained about asking his father for advice – at least partially because he is all too aware that he was initially taken on by his firm because his father requested a favor from the senior partner. Daniel does not want to feel any more beholden to his father’s connections than he already does.

So Daniel comes at his cases from a different angle altogether – although in this particular case that angle results in him calling his own father to the witness stand!

In the end, Daniel solves this case with more than a little help from his rather irregular friends. And that’s what makes it such a page-turner from beginning to end.

~~~~~~ GIVEAWAY ~~~~~~

As part of my Blogo-Birthday Celebration, I’m giving away something every day this week. Today’s giveaway is for the winner’s choice of any book in either the Charlotte and Thomas Pitt series or the Daniel Pitt series, both by Anne Perry. Both series are absolutely wonderful, and will be a treat for any lover of historical mystery. So the winner can either start Daniel’s adventures with Twenty-One Days, or go all the way back to when his parents first met in The Cater Street Hangman, or anywhere in between, including this most recent (and terrific!) mystery.

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Review: Twenty-One Days by Anne Perry

Review: Twenty-One Days by Anne PerryTwenty-One Days (Daniel Pitt, #1) by Anne Perry
Formats available: hardcover, large print, paperback, ebook, audiobook
Series: Daniel Pitt #1
Pages: 320
Published by Ballantine Books on April 10, 2018
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKoboBook Depository
Goodreads

In this first book in a new series, Thomas Pitt's son Daniel races to save his client from execution, setting him against London's Special Police Branch.

It's 1910, and Daniel Pitt is a reluctant lawyer who would prefer to follow in the footsteps of his detective father. When the biographer Russell Graves, who Daniel is helping defend, is sentenced to execution for the murder of his wife, Daniel's Pitt-family investigative instincts kick in, and he sets out to find the real killer. With only twenty-one days before Graves is to be executed, Daniel learns that Graves is writing a biography of Victor Narraway, the former head of Special Branch and a close friend of the Pitts. And the stories don't shed a positive light. Is it possible someone is framing Graves to keep him from writing the biography--maybe even someone Daniel knows in Special Branch?

The only answer, it seems, lies in the dead woman's corpse. And so, with the help of some eccentric new acquaintances who don't mind bending the rules, Daniel delves into an underground world of dead bodies and double lives, unearthing scores of lies and conspiracies. As he struggles to balance his duty to the law with his duty to his family, the equal forces of justice and loyalty pull this lawyer-turned-detective in more directions than he imagined possible. And amidst it all, his client's twenty-one days are ticking away.

My Review:

Twenty-One Days is an intense and absorbing mystery, filled with difficult questions and seemingly impossible answers. And it is utterly impossible to put down.

It may also remind readers, just a bit, of the TV series Murdoch Mysteries. While Murdoch begins earlier, by this point in the series it is nearly contemporaneous with Twenty-One Days. And the combination of tried-and-true investigative techniques with the early days of forensic science, as well as the prominence of women scientists in professionally supporting roles has a similar feel.

But unlike Murdoch, or its own predecessor series featuring Daniel Pitt’s detecting parents, Charlotte and Thomas Pitt (series begins with The Cater Street Hangman and is marvelous), young Daniel Pitt is a junior (very junior) barrister. In other words, Daniel begins his investigations from the perspective of a practicing lawyer.

Which does not mean that he has forgotten anything he learned following his father around, or listening at keyholes and behind the banister while his parents and their friends discussed Thomas Pitt’s more difficult cases as a police detective and later a member of Special Branch.

This story, and this series, open with kind of a teaser. Daniel is defending one of his father’s old friends, and gets the man off. Not through trickery, but through science. As well as a bit of deductive reasoning and a flash of insight. But he proves that the man was not guilty, because the man really wasn’t guilty – he was merely “in the frame”.

Which leads immediately to his next case, where another, completely different man also seems to be “in the frame” for a crime he swears that he did not commit. Unfortunately for this new defendant, not only does the frame fit, but he’s such an unlikeable bastard that the jury wants to make it fit – and honestly so do both his lawyers.

Even after the man is convicted, Daniel is tasked with finding the truth, whatever it is. Luckily for Daniel’s conscience, he is not charged with proving the bastard innocent whether he is or not, merely with finding the truth of the crime, whether their client is guilty or not. And whether anyone wants him to be guilty or not.

It turns out that everyone wants the bastard to be guilty, including both of his attorneys. Daniel discovers that he wants the man to be guilty, whether he is or not, because if the man is telling the truth then much of what Daniel believes, not just about himself but about his parents, their friends, and everyone he holds dear, may be a lie. Or his father may be a monster and not the hero Daniel has always believed him to be.

There is certainly a monster somewhere at the heart of this case. But who? It’s up to Daniel to find out, before it’s too late. Once the client is hanged, the answers won’t matter – unless they’re the wrong ones.

Escape Rating A: This was absolutely marvelous, utterly compelling, and a page turner from beginning to end. If you love historical mysteries, this book, and the series that it opens, look like real winners. This first outing certainly is.

Anyone who loved the Charlotte and Thomas Pitt series is going to enjoy this first case featuring their son. But it is not necessary to have read the previous series to get into this one. As this case forces Daniel to investigate his father and all of his friends and associates, the reader new to the family gets all the introduction to the past that is needed. The elder Pitts are definitely tertiary characters here, and it was lovely to see them again, but their past investigations are not truly germane to the present one.

This case is Daniel’s coming-of-age, his biggest step on the road to independent adulthood. He looks at the past but does not live in it. Investigating that past from the perspective of a lawyer and not a cop is his breaking away from it – even as he respects it and loves the people who raised him and shaped him.

This case also introduces the people who will become Daniel’s friends, colleagues and confidants, including the female forensic scientist Miriam fford Croft and the Blackwoods, mother and son, who provide sage advice and investigative assistance in equal measure.

Daniel asks for help when he needs it, however reluctantly, but the logical leaps are all his, as are the worries and fears. He learns that his parents are mortal and fallible, and that adulthood often consists of not choosing the better option, but picking between a choice of evils.

And that just because a person is not guilty of one crime, that does not mean that they are in any way innocent of much of anything at all. Those discoveries, and the need to find them, is the making of Daniel Pitt, and the heart of this terrific mystery.