Desert Isle Keeper
The Thomas and Charlotte Pitt Mysteries
I love the Victorian period dearly. To me it is one of the most interesting of all times. My favorite series of books that take place in this dynamic age are the mysteries featuring Thomas Pitt and his wife Charlotte, written by Anne Perry. These are not only excellent mysteries, but insightful social history as well. They examine the often terrible social conditions of the time – prostitution, drug abuse, child exploitation, rape, murder, incest, anti-Semitism, and the class system. The Pitt novels give the reader a real feeling for the entire range of Victorian society – there are characters in the books from the very highest ranks to the lowest of the low.
Thomas Pitt is the son of a gamekeeper. The man who owned the estate where Thomas’s family was employed took a fancy to him and had him educated with his son. As a consequence, Thomas has a good education, good manners and a beautiful speaking voice with no trace of “lower class” accent. When his father was falsely accused of poaching and condemned to deportation, Thomas’s sense of justice was outraged and when it came time to choose a career, he chose to be a policeman.
Charlotte Ellison is the middle daughter in a comfortable middle-class family. Charlotte is an intelligent and strong-minded young woman who chafes at the restrictions placed on her by the customs of her social class. Young women like Charlotte are to be demure, decorative and not display independent thought. Charlotte observes the social requirements, but she is boiling with supressed energy and rebels in small ways. She secretly borrows the newspaper from the butler (her father decreed that ladies must not read news that might upset them). During the boring round of calls that Society demands women must make, Charlotte often speaks her mind to the consternation of her mother. When a series of murders are committed on Cater Street where she lives, Charlotte comes in contact with Thomas Pitt.
The attraction between Thomas and Charlotte is that of two kindred spirits. The rules of Society decree that they act in certain ways, but their natures can’t help but compel them to act independently. At the end of the case, Charlotte and Thomas are in love and she breaks the laws of her class and Society to marry him.
Charlotte finds much happiness in her marriage. Not only do she and Thomas love each other very deeply, but she has found freedom from the stifling rules that govern middle and upper class women’s behavior. Before her marriage, Charlotte had nothing to do but to dabble in decorative accomplishments and pay social calls. The house was run by servants. Now, she has to learn to do almost everything herself. The Pitts have a maid-of-all-work, the wonderful Gracie, but Charlotte works right beside her and learns to cook and clean and keep household acounts and take pride in her accomplishments
But Charlotte is not just a sweet Victorian Angel In The House, she is a big help to Thomas in his police work as well. As Thomas moves up the ladder (currently he is a Superintendent), his cases often bring him into the realms of upper-class Society. Charlotte, who knows the rules and regulations and can play the social games, is of great help to Thomas here. She often goes to parties and functions where she notices the little nuances and coded words and phrases that sometimes cover guilty secrets. She and Thomas make an excellent team and he very much appreciates her.
The supporting cast of characters is excellent. Charlotte’s sister Emily has married twice, the first time to Lord Ashworth, a viscount and the second time to Jack Radley, a member of Parliament. She and Charlotte are fast friends and Emily has often been a great help to Charlotte and Thomas. One of my favorite characters is Emily’s great-aunt by marriage Lady Vespasia Cumming-Gould. Lady Vespasia is a widow in her 80’s who in her youth, had been a great beauty and she is still a beautiful woman. Lady Vespasia has enough respect and social clout to do just as she wishes and she is fond of Charlotte and Thomas. Lady Vespasia has also been of great assistance to them. Charlotte’s mother, perhaps seeing the happiness of her daughter in her “inappropriate” marriage, has married for her second husband, a Jewish actor 17 years her junior to the dismay of her mother-in-law, the horrid Mrs. Ellison.
When you read a novel in this series, you will find a good mystery for sure, but these are so much more than just puzzle books. They give one of the most fully realized portraits of Victorian Society that I have ever read. Anne Perry’s other series of Victorian mysteries featuring William Monk and Hester Latterly are also excellent and I would have them in the mystery bookcase on my Desert Island as well. Both series are still continuing and I look forward to each new book.
Here are all the titles so far in this series:
|The Cater Street Hangman
Death in the Devil’s Acre
Silence in Hanover Close
The Hyde Park Headsman
Half Moon Street