Kathy Davie's Reviews > Paragon Walk

Paragon Walk by Anne Perry
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's review
Dec 16, 11

bookshelves: history, mystery
Read in December, 2011

Third in the Charlotte and Thomas Pitt Victorian mystery series revolving around Inspector Thomas Pitt and his very curious wife Charlotte.

My Take
While a young girl is murdered, the emphasis is on how it will affect everyone else socially with a number of the neighbors putting all the blame on the girl. Well, obviously she must have had low morals to have invited rape! How do people actually twist their minds to believe something like this? They are like a snarling pack of dogs. Ooh, that's rather mean. To the dogs, anyway.

Of course, the unlucky Frenchman living in the neighborhood is the object of all the ladies' interests but the first one at whom the neighbors point a finger. Everyone kept mentioning the Dilbridges' peculiar social tastes but no one ever comes out and explains what those tastes are. Why would Pitt avoid looking into this?

Perry makes an interesting point that "Without the discipline of work, they had invented the discipline of etiquette". It's true, the upper classes' lives were so boring that they had to create something at which to work. What better than manners so they would have something to occupy their minds as well as a stick to poke at everyone else.

Perry has another passage that I thought was very good on the definition of rape versus love. Charlotte points out that
A strong man, a man who is capable of caring, does not force a woman. He takes love as it is offered, knowing that that which is demanded has no meaning. The essence of strength is not in overpowering others, but in mastering oneself.

While Emily is thinking more of the physical act itself. That Selena's rape is more acceptable in Selena's mind because to lie willingly is wrong but to be a victim is an excuse and having the best of both worlds: innocent of the guilt and yet having the pleasure.

I rather like discovering how Charlotte is adapting to her new life: learning to cook, getting on with the neighbors, dealing with her child on her own. She's doing a lovely job of it. Then there's Emily coping with George's infidelity; quite subtle and very effective.

The Story
A young woman, Fanny Nash, comes staggering across the threshold of her brother's home. Raped and stabbed! The weeks go by and the police remain baffled and in the meantime, Charlotte spends more and more of her time attempting to help her sister Emily discover "who dun it" and in the process discovers more than she wanted to know about her husband and the neighbors in Paragon Walk while we can enjoy our distance from their rapier-like tongues.

It's the discovery of another body that sets everything spinning to the ultimate conclusion after a few red herrings. There certainly was a great deal more going on underneath the surface than the Pitts or Lady Emily ever suspected!

The Characters
Inspector Thomas Pitt is as disheveled as ever while Charlotte is still attempting to conquer cooking. Their daughter, Jessamine, is teething. Together they meet George's Great Aunt Vespasia Cummings-Gold for the first time. I do like Aunt Vespasia! Mrs. Smith across the way helps Charlotte by watching Jessamine when Charlotte goes off sleuthing.

A pregnant Lady Emily Ashworth begs Charlotte for help and support as Pitt investigates her own neighbors on Paragon Walk. Lord George Ashworth has his own secrets to keep.

Fanny Nash is the 17-year-old half-sister of Diggory, Afton, and Fulton Nash. She lived with Diggory and his wife Jessamyn and was engaged to Algernon Burnon. The night Fanny was murdered, Lord and Lady Dilbridge were holding a party. Mrs. Selena Montague is a widow and little better than she should be. There are the Misses Horbury: the tolerant Miss Laetitia and the moralistic Miss Lucinda, and their friend, Lady Tamworth. The self-effacing Phoebe Nash is married to the excessively moral Afton. Hallam Cayley is a widower. Paul Alaric is the dashing Frenchman over whom Serena and Jessamyn are fighting.

The Title
The title indicates the location of the tragedies on Paragon Walk, a street where the upper class lives.
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