Source: supplied by publisher via Edelweiss
Formats available: hardcover, large print, paperback, ebook, audiobook
Genres: historical fiction, historical mystery, mystery
Series: Daniel Pitt #5
Published by Ballantine Books on April 12, 2022
Purchasing Info: Author's Website, Publisher's Website, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Bookshop.org, Better World Books
A serial killer is on the loose, and may have a hidden connection to young barrister Daniel Pitt's university days, in this intricately woven mystery from
New York Times
bestselling author Anne Perry.
A serial killer is roaming the streets of London, and Daniel Pitt's university chum Ian, now a member of the police, is leading the search. The murders are keeping his mind occupied, but when Ian learns that their old professor, Nicholas Wolford, has been charged with plagiarism, he takes the time to personally ask Daniel to defend their beloved teacher. For help catching who Londoners are now calling the Rainy Day Slasher, Ian also enlists Daniel's good friend Miriam fford Croft, now back from school and a fully qualified pathologist.
As the murders continue, Miriam can't help but notice inexplicable links that have been overlooked by Daniel and Ian. In their concern to defend their former professor, are the two university friends blind to a far worse crime that has been committed?
I picked this up this week because I didn’t know how many I had left. The author, Anne Perry, died on April 10, 2023, which made this reader plow through the towering TBR pile to see what books of hers I still had squirreled away within.
Which brought me to Daniel Pitt, and Three Debts Paid. Which seemed fitting, as my first introduction to this author was The Cater Street Hangman, the very first book in her long-running historical mystery series featuring Daniel’s parents, then-Inspector Thomas Pitt and his future bride, Charlotte Ellison.
The older Pitts are still active and are secondary characters in this later series featuring their son Daniel, a series which began with the excellent Twenty-One Days, followed by Triple Jeopardy, One Fatal Flaw, and Death with a Double Edge.
Back in his father’s day, the stories began with a dead body, as seems right and proper – if a bit gruesome – for a series focused on a police detective.
But Daniel Pitt is a barrister (lawyer) not a cop. His stories generally begin with Daniel taking on a legal case in his still fairly junior position at the firm of fford Croft and Gibson. Not that the dead bodies don’t start piling up sooner or later – whether they tie into Daniel’s legal case or not.
And not that Daniel doesn’t find himself observing one or more of those corpses on an autopsy table, as his best friend and occasional partner-in-investigation is a forensic pathologist. One who has just managed to qualify for her license, in spite of being barred from receiving certification in England on account of her sex.
Their friendship and intellectual partnership has been evident from their first meeting in the first book. The question before them both at this juncture is where that friendship can or should take them. Miriam fford Croft is both 15 years older than Daniel AND the daughter of the senior partner of the law firm in which he works. Miriam is the love of Daniel’s life – whether he can manage to admit that to himself or not. And whether it is worth risking that deep friendship to learn whether or not she might feel the same.
The mystery in Three Debts Paid is threefold, as it should be considering the title. First, whether or not Daniel can win the legal case he is initially presented with – in spite of his client’s terrible temper and worse behavior. Second, whether Miriam’s expertise can provide the police with the key to solving an escaping series of murders. And third, whether Daniel can not merely accept but actively support Miriam’s career and life goals, in spite of not merely societal expectations but his own sincere desire to take care of her and keep her safe.
But neither of those things is remotely what Miriam fford Croft is built for.
Escape Rating A: This is a story with, come to think of it, a lot of things coming in threes. The three debts, that are not revealed until the very end. The three plot threads listed above. There are also three investigators, Daniel, Miriam and police Inspector Ian Frobisher, a friend of Daniel’s from his days at Cambridge.
And all those threes sometimes march and sometimes meander towards each other in a way that keeps the reader guessing until the very last page, right along with those three investigators.
Daniel’s case is a bit of a cakewalk – or so it seems. But then again, it isn’t a matter of life and death – merely a case of pride goeth before a fall. Or it will be if Daniel’s client won’t keep his anger off his face in court.
The “Rainy-Day Slasher” murders, as the press have dubbed them, ARE a matter of life and death. It’s obvious early on that there is a serial killer on the prowl, but the search for a common thread between the victims proves elusive to pathologist Miriam and to Inspector Frobisher. That the third victim was someone whose secrets must be protected, even after death, only muddles the case further and adds more roadblocks to a case that Frobisher’s superiors pressure him to solve even as they take away the tools he needs to accomplish that task.
Alongside that frustration and increasing desperation, the developing relationship between Daniel and Miriam reaches a stretch of uncertainty. There are no established patterns for the future they both want but believe is out of reach. And yet, they can’t stop reaching for it, even as Daniel, at least, is aware that every word and every action is a test of whether or not it is possible. It’s a delicate balance, and it is beautifully done.
I found that teetering balance to be the most compelling part of the story, but that is not to shortchange either the frustrations of Daniel’s legal case or the pulse-pounding desperation and intellectual puzzle of the hunt for the serial killer. In combination, they kept me glued to the story until I finished with relief at the outcome as well as a bit of a sad because this wonderful series is nearly at an end.
There is at least one book left in this series. Considering the amount of time between finishing a manuscript and publishing the resulting book – at least through traditional publishing – it is possible there is one more after that but I’m not counting on it. That certain remaining book is The Fourth Enemy, just published this month. I’ll probably put off reading it for a bit, as I’m not ready for this series to be over. It’s been terrific!