BONUS: This edition contains excerpts from Anne Perry's Treason at Lisson Grove and Execution Dock.
For Superintendent Thomas Pitt, the sight of the dead man riding the morning tide of the Thames is unforgettable. The corpse lies in a battered punt drifting through the early mist, clad in a torn green gown and bestrewn with flowers. Pitt’s determined search for answers to the victim’s identity leads him deep into London’s bohemia—to the theatre where beautiful Cecily Antrim is outraging society with her bold portrayal of a modern woman, and into studios where masters of light and shadow are experimenting with the fascinating new art of photography. But only Pitt’s masterly investigative skills enable him to identify the wildfire passions raging through this tragedy of good and evil, to hunt down the guilty and protect the innocent.
Set in Oscar Wilde's London in 1891, Perry's new Thomas Pitt mystery is all about the importance of being earnest. Superintendent Pitt is summoned to the Thames when police discover the body of a young man dressed in a torn green velvet gown, manacled to a punt, "in parody of ecstasy and death." At first it seems the victim is Henri Bonnard, a functionary in the French embassy; eventually, Pitt and dour sidekick Sergeant Tellman identify the body as Delbert Cathcart, a gifted photographer. Was there a connection between Cathcart and lookalike Bonnard? Why was Cathcart's body arranged in that disturbing "feminine pose," which Perry repeatedly describes as a "mockery" of paintings of the Lady of Shallot and Ophelia? Meanwhile, Pitt's mother-in-law, Caroline Fielding, recently married to an actor 17 years her junior, blushes and stammers as her husband and his theater friends expound on Ibsen. While she's clarifying her views on the irresponsibility of pornography, Caroline spends long hours entertaining Samuel Ellison, her late husband's American half-brother, who tearfully recounts his nation's history ("I watched the white man strengthen and the red man die"). For a grandma, Caroline is an oddly jejune character, and her moralistic musings overwhelm the mystery plot, which stagnates early on. What's clearly intended to be intellectually challenging comes across as silly and pretentious. There's even a pub scene in which Wilde himself witlessly pontificates, and "a pale young Irishman addressed by his fellows as Yeats, stare moodily into the distance." 15-city author tour; audio rights to Random House Audio.