The murder of a prostitute named Ada McKinley in a bedroom on decrepit Pentecost Alley should occasion no stir in Victoria’s great metropolis, but under the victim’s body, the police find a Hellfire Club badge inscribed with the name “Finlay Fitzjames”—a name that instantly draws Superintendent Thomas Pitt into the case. Finlay’s father—immensely wealthy, powerful, and dangerous—refuses to consider the possibility that his son has been in Ada McKinley’s bed. The implication is clear: Pitt is to arrest someone other than Finlay Fitzjames for Ada’s demise. But Thomas Pitt is not a man to be intimidated, and with the help of his quick-witted wife, Charlotte, he stubbornly pursues his investigation—one that twists and turns like London’s own ancient streets.
The 16th Thomas and Charlotte Pitt mystery demonstrates Perry's trademark skill for enhancing well-designed mystery plots with convincing historical settings and cleverly drawn relationships among characters. In this outing, Pitt, last seen in Traitors Gate, tackles a case that could cost him his career. As it has been only two years since the unsolved Jack the Ripper murders, the Home Office anxiously anticipates the speedy arrest of the person who has murdered a Whitechapel prostitute with her own stocking. Finlay FitzJames, a young diplomat who is the son of a powerful merchant banker, is the prime suspect, even though the evidence against him is circumstantial: an old Hellfire Club badge, inscribed with Finlay's name, was found under the prostitute in bed, and cufflinks with his initials were discovered in the room. While Pitt grapples with this politically sensitive case, his sister-in-law, Emily Radley, makes friends with Finlay's younger sister, a social butterfly named Tallulah. Thanks to Pitt's diligence (and Emily's and Tallulah's meddling), the case is closed. Or so it seems until another very similar murder occurs. Whitechapel residents are terrified anew, Parliament is filled with grumblings, the Queen conveys her displeasure and newspaper reporters are turning the investigation into a case study in police incompetence and corruption. As Perry edges toward her surprise ending, she crafts her tale with elegance, narrative depth and gratifying scope. BOMC main selection.