Book Review: The Cater Street Hangman, The First Charlotte and Thomas Pitt Novel
By Anne Perry
Panic and fear strike the Ellison household when one of their own falls prey to the Cater Street murderer. While Mrs. Ellison and her three daughters are out, their maid becomes the third victim of a killer who strangles young women with cheese wire, leaving their swollen-faced bodies on the dark streets of this genteel neighborhood. Inspector Pitt, assigned to the case, must break through the walls of upper-class society to get at the truth. His in-depth investigation gradually peels away the proper veneer of the elite world, exposing secrets and desires until suspicion becomes more frightening than truth. Outspoken Charlotte Ellison, struggling to remain within the confining boundaries of Victorian manners, has no trouble expressing herself to the irritating policeman. As their relationship shifts from antagonistic sparring to a romantic connection, the socially inappropriate pair must solve the mystery before the hangman strikes again.
Adult Point of View
Perry’s novel The Cater Street Hangman clearly illustrates the class system of Victorian England as well as the dual standards for men and women. It is fascinating to see how Inspector Pitt needs to look beyond what he is told because of his inferior station while trying to question a family above his social standing. The rich details of the Victorian world are tangible in the descriptions of clothing, the behavior of the titled, and even how good people speak to their servants, and the position of the clergy in society.
The crux of the matter is that I did not enjoy reading The Cater Street Hangman. I realize Perry is a very popular author and so I have been analyzing why I didn’t love this novel.
1- The Characters. I had very few characters that I enjoyed. Charlotte is a product of her times and is outspoken (which I normally love) and was one of the few characters that held some charm. Her sisters were awful and sometimes vacant and her mother spineless, her father was domineering and Dominic, her sister’s husband was shallow. Though Lord George Ashworth wasn’t likeable, he had a developed character which made him suspicious and interesting. The vicar and his wife were also unlikeable. Inspector Pitt was crude, and I don’t see why Charlotte fell in love with him because they didn’t find any commonalities to build a relationship upon.
2- The Tone. I like mysteries where the character’s are clever and finding clues to help them discover the murderer. Inspector Pitt repeatedly asks questions, the same questions which begin to reveal the unseemly behaviors of the men in the family, but don’t actually appear to move the investigation forward. The novel revolves around the discussions Charlotte has with her family and her own fears as she realizes the killer could be anyone. It was tedious and depressing.
3- The Repetition. Each time a murder occurs the same grim description of the young girl being garotted with a wire is repeated. It made the novel too grisly for me even though the description wasn’t overly descriptive. I also had guessed who the murderer was because of the repetition of the musings of who Charlotte suspected and who she didn’t suspect.
I will not read anymore of Perry’s novels. I left it at two stars because she has good writing even though the book is not to my taste.