logo
Wrong email address or username
Wrong email address or username
Incorrect verification code
back to top
Search tags: anne-perry
Load new posts () and activity
Like Reblog Comment
show activity (+)
review 2017-12-27 01:20
16 Tasks of the Festive Season: Square 9 - Winter Solstice / Yaldā Night
A Christmas Homecoming (Christmas Novellas) - Anne Perry

 

 

Winter Solstice and Yaldā Night / Bonus task: Read a book in one night.

 

This is the third of Ann Perry's Christmas novellas that I've read this holiday season (Perry's ninth Christmas novella overall), and I liked this one as much as the very first one I read, A Christmas Visitor.

 

The main series supporting character who takes center stage in A Christmas Homecoming is Charlotte Pitt's mother Caroline who -- 16 years after the murder of her daughter, Charlotte's sister Sarah, which had initially brought together Charlotte and her now-husband Thomas Pitt -- visits a Whitby (Yorkshire) country estate together with her second and much younger husband, Jewish actor-manager Joshua Fielding, and his company, in order to stage a play that the  daughter of their host has written based on (you guessed it) Bram Stoker's Dracula. When a stranger, who had been invited into the house on the plea of seeking shelter from a snowstorm that had cut off the area from the rest of civilization, is found killed, Caroline realizes that her actor friends will be the first to be suspected of having committed the murder, as the police will be disinclined to investigate their host -- an influential landowner and businessman -- and his household; so she decides to do some investigating on her own.

 

I confess to a certain amoiunt of apprehension after having read about the book's setting, but Perry thankfully doesn't fall into the trap of overemphasizing either the Yorkshire moors or the vampirism elements -- they're present, of course (and let's be honest, where would be the fun in setting this sort of story in the middle of London?), but it's the snowstorm-enhanced isolation of the estate rather than the moors that predominates in creating the atmosphere, and while you can't possibly write about Dracula without including vampire lore (and the contents of Stoker's book in particular) in some fashion or other, Perry is ultimately much more interested in the conceptual allegory of Dracula as the embodiment of evil.  And I guess I'm just a sucker for anything set in the world of the theatre; at any rate, despite some rather obvious preaching on things that any actor worth his salt ought to know since their first year of training (and which certainly a star actor like the one who is the addressee of said lesson here should not have to be told), and although Perry also seems to have taken more than a few cues from both Christopher Lee and Kenneth Branagh as to how a successful translation of Stoker's book to a dramatic medium might work, I rather enjoyed this particular aspect of the story.

 

Perry doesn't quite play fair with the reader as far as the solution to the murder is concerned: while it is possible to guess the guilty party (and even suspect bits of their motive), for the better part of Caroline's investigation there is not even a hint  as to the relevant facts, so guess is really what you have to do.  However, the death -- and Caroline's subsequent investigation -- only occurs in the last third of the story; it is by far not its only focus.  Perry takes great care in developing the various characters and their relationships and interactions first, so the murder (when it occurs) is really more the story's final catalyst than anything else.  If the characters' conflicts had been resolved as a result of some other event, that would conceivably have been quite as convincing -- but I suppose it just wouldn't have been an Anne Perry book then.

 

Whitby Abbey and churchyard -- inspiration and setting, respectively, for part of Bram Stoker's Dracula (photos mine)

Like Reblog Comment
show activity (+)
review 2017-12-23 23:23
16 Tasks of the Festive Season: Square 11 - Dōngzhì Festival: Retribution
A Christmas Journey (The Christmas Stories) - Terrence Hardiman,Anne Perry

Book themes for Dōngzhì Festival: Read a book set in China or written by a Chinese author / an author of Chinese origin; or read a book that has a pink or white cover.

 

I'm claiming this one as a book with a largely white cover, with some salmonredpinkish bits on the borders and in the author's name.

 

This is the first one of Anne Perry's Christmas novellas: having recently listened to and greatly liked Terrence Hardiman's narration of the second of these books, A Christmas Visitor, I decided to give another one a shot, and I certainly didn't regret it, even if by and large I liked A Christmas Visitor yet a bit more.  This novella is set quite a bit earlier than both of Perry's main series; it's protagonist is Lady Vespasia Cummings-Gould, whom readers of the Charlotte and Thomas Pitt series know as Charlotte's octogenarian grand-aunt, but whom we meet here in her equally vigorous and graceful prime. -- Lady Vespasia agrees to accompany a friend on a voyage of retribution to the Scottish highlands, to deliver a letter that a young London noblewoman has written to her mother immediately before committing suicide -- largely (or so it seems) as a result of an injurious comment made by Lady Vespasia's friend.

 

I found the anchoring of the idea of retribution (which Perry accomplishes by dragging an early medieval legal concept out of the rafters of history) a bit contrived, but I very much liked the story's construction and setting, and I can quite understand that Perry was eager to give her octogenarian "main series" character a life and a past of her own.  As in A Christmas Visitor, there were moments where I would have wished for a bit more of a nuanced handling of the "Christmas-appropriate" moral subtext, though by and large, given how much earlier than the second Christmas novella this one was set -- and how closely social mores tied into the "misdeed" of Lady Vespasia's friend, and into the story as a whole -- the topic's handling didn't come quite as much out of left field as it did towards the end of A Christmas Visitor.

 

Terrence Hardiman's narration was, as ever, splendid; even if I did briefly wonder why, in light of the fact that not only Lady Vespasia but almost all of the novella's chief charactes were women, a male and not a female narrator was chosen -- but I think Hardiman narrates all of Perry's Christmas novellas, so from that point of view it certainly makes sense.

Like Reblog Comment
show activity (+)
review 2017-12-11 23:55
16 Tasks of the Festive Season: Square 9 Reads (Winter Solstice / Yaldā Night and Yuletide)
The Poetry - David Shaw-Parker,Christina Rossetti,Ghizela Rowe
Goblin Market - Christina Rossetti
A Christmas Visitor - Anne Perry
Colour Scheme - Ngaio Marsh,Ric Jerrom
Colour Scheme - Ngaio Marsh

Book themes for Winter Solstice and Yaldā Night: Read a book of poetry.

Book themes for Yuletide: Read a book set in the midst of a snowy or icy winter.

 

Holiday Book Joker as Bonus Joker: A book set on Winter Solstice (or Summer Solstice in the Southern Hemisphere)

 

  

 

Winter Solstice and Yaldā Night Read: Christina Rossetti: The Poetry

A wonderful reading of some of Christina Rossetti's best-known poems by David Shaw-Parker and Ghizela Rowe, including her long narrative The Goblin Market, which I also own (and reread, for the occasion) in a delightful hardcopy edition illustrated with images by Christina's elder brother, the Pre-Raphaelite painter Dante Gabriel Rossetti.  Not holiday reading per se (and The Goblin Market is decidedly dark), but still very fitting poetic complementary material for the holiday season.  Highly recommended!

 

  

 

Yuletide Read: Anne Perry: A Christmas Visitor

Anne Perry's Christmas novellas are spin-offs of her major Victorian series (Thomas & Charlotte Pitt, and William Monk, respectively), featuring supporting characters from those series as their protagonists.  A Christmas Visitor is the second of those novellas, and its protagonist is Henry Stanhope, a mathematician friend of William Monk's.  Stanhope travels to the snow-laden Lake District to spend Christmas with the family of his longstanding friend Judah Dreghorn; only to discover that just prior to his arrival Judah has apparently slipped on a set of ice-sheeted stones crossing a brook on his estate.  What initially looked like an accident, at closer inspection is revealed to be murder, and while everybody's favorite and allegedly most likely suspect is soon found, it falls to Henry to find out what really happened.

 

Perry's writing is very atmospheric and captures the Lake District, 19th century rural society, and the Christmas spirit to perfection -- I loved this story right up until its very end, which (even for a Christmas book) struck me as overly moralizing and sentimental on the one hand, and just that decisive bit too neat on the other hand.  (Readers not enamored of mysteries hingeing on certain points of law might be turned off on those grounds)  Still, for a quick read to get into the spirit of the season (and be served up a nicely-plotted mystery into the bargain), I could hardly have done better -- and the stellar reading by Terrence Hardiman contributed greatly to my enjoyment.

 

  

 

Winter Solstice Book Joker Bonus Read: Ngaio Marsh: Colour Scheme

One of my favorite mysteries from Ngaio Marsh's Roderick Alleyn series, here served up in an unabridged reading by Ric Jerrom.  The story is set in Marsh's native New Zealand and begins on Summer Solstice, which is Winter Solstice in the Northern Hemisphere and thus makes the book eligible for this particular holiday's book joker.

 

The mystery is set at a spa hotel near a hot springs / mud pot / small version of Yellowstone National Park type of area, where a gentleman who has made one enemy too many (i.e., your classic Golden Age murder victim) one day is found to have fallen into a boiling hot mud pot.  (He may or may not also have been a German spy -- the story is set in the 1940s -- but this is one of the rare exceptions of a Golden Age mystery with that kind of angle that is blessedly devoid of "5th column" shenanigans, and where the war background is actually used skillfully to demonstrate how WWII affected daily life even in seemingly remote New Zealand.)  Also present at the spa is, inter alia, a star of the British stage and screen (unabashedly based on Sir Laurence Olivier) -- secretary in tow -- as well as, arriving on the day after the "accidental" death that very probably wasn't an accident, a Mr. Septimus Small, whom none of the other denizens of the spa manage to figure out, and who soon inspires the wildest conjectures as to his identity and occupation.

 

Upon revisiting the mystery -- thanks in no small part to Ric Jerrom's excellent narration and portrayal of the characters -- I found the story's inner logic (and the path to the solution) decidedly more obvious than when I first read it a few years ago, but then again, this time I knew where the whole thing was headed and, consequently, I was not as distracted by minutiae as the first time around.

 

Like Reblog Comment
show activity (+)
text 2017-06-28 19:32
Paradise Pier #28
Silence in Hanover Close - Anne Perry

I landed on Paradise Pier #28, which calls for a book set during the Victorian era. I still have two of these Open Road editions of the Thomas and Charlotte Pitt series that I bought on sale, so I decided to read this one! I'm not sure if this is a reread or not - I have read a number of these books before, but never quite know which ones.

Like Reblog Comment
show activity (+)
review 2017-06-06 20:26
Reading progress update: I've read 352 out of 352 pages.
Seven Dials - Anne Perry

Only 330 pages of this count toward BL-opoly, since the rest was previews of coming attractions.

 

I was thinking it's been at least ten years since I last read one of the Charlotte and Thomas Pitt mysteries by Anne Perry, but on reflection it's probably closer to 15 or even 20 years.  Time flies, and all that.  Also, this is one of the later books in the series than when I stopped reading them, so there have been developments in the Pitts' status that I've missed, such as the birth of two children and so on.

 

But this didn't take away very much from the understanding of this particular novel.  There were some explanations included, though they were neither extensive nor intrusive.

 

The characters of Thomas and Charlotte are still likeable and admirable -- and believable.  After attempting to read not one but two Dorothy Uhnak crime novels with utterly awful characters, I was very much relieved to welcome myself back into the late Victorian London home of the Pitt family and into the lives of their friends. 

 

I wish Perry had included more details of that London of the 1890s, but perhaps that's a bonus granted to those who read the whole series.  Fortunately, there was not an overabundance of fashion detail; enough, but not too much.

 

Better, however, was the integration of contemporary social and political history into the fabric (pun intended) of the story, which involves the tensions between England with its near monopoly of the cotton spinning and weaving industries and Egypt as the exploited colonial source of the raw cotton.

 

Thomas Pitt is now working for something called the Special Branch -- I missed out on the explanation of this in intervening novels -- and is called in to investigate the murder of a young man in the London garden of a mysterious Egyptian woman.  She is understood to be the mistress of a high-level government figure, Saville Ryerson.  Ryerson represents much of the cotton mill interests around Manchester, and negotiations with Egyptian interests are at a delicate point.  The mill owners and workers want to keep the cost of raw cotton down and the supply of it flowing steadily; the Egyptians are tired of being exploited and want the price to rise along with being able to develop their own textile industries.

 

Pitt, who comes from a working class background, has sympathies on both sides, and this makes him a more interesting character than just your ordinary detective.

 

His wife Charlotte, whose family is much higher on the social ladder than Thomas's, has over the course of the series become something of an amateur detective herself.  In this book, her assistance is sought by a friend of their housemaid to locate a missing brother.  Much of Charlotte's detecting is accomplished while Thomas is sent to Alexandria, Egypt, to investigate the history there of the murder victim as well as the mysterious woman who has been accused of killing him.

 

What I didn't like, and what pulled my rating down significantly, was the clumsy way Perry wove (pun again intended) the seemingly disparate threads together.  And the ending was just not believable.

 

That the missing brother is indirectly tied to the murder was bad enough.  But when the whole mystery is solved, the connections between the Egyptian woman and the British envoy with whom Pitt makes contact in Egypt, between Ryerson and Pitt's supervisor in Special Branch, and so on and so on and so on was more than a little eye-rolling.

(spoiler show)

 

The ending was especially awkward because although it seemed to effectively avoid exposing the most dangerous of several scandals, I couldn't quite believe that

[spoiler]

a dramatic murder-suicide in the courtroom during a sensational murder trial wouldn't in and of itself spark further investigation that would uncover the whole sordid mess that was supposed to be covered up

[/spoiler].

Easy, comfortable reading that might have been enhanced a little if I had read all the preceding books in the series, but they weren't absolutely necessary.

More posts
Your Dashboard view:
Need help?