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by Anne Perry

USA, Hardcover; 336 pages
Ballantine Books (2002)
ISBN: 034544003

Reviewed by Pamela White

The follow-up to Anne Perry's WHITE CHAPEL CONSPIRACY follows through on the previous book's political intrigue. SOUTHAMPTON ROW shows Thomas Pitt removed as superintendent of the Bow Street Police station, as revenge for his interfering with certain enemies of the crown, some of whom are now in the influential Inner Circle. He is informed that he is now a member of the Special Branch but plans to take a much-needed vacation with wife, Charlotte and children, Jemima and Daniel. In the midst of departing for this long-anticipated trip, he is jerked back into a murder being investigated by Bow Street.

The murder victim is a psychic of questionable abilities and renowned clients, some of whom have reason to kill to keep their identity as a regular at seances a secret. The spiritualist, Maude Lamont, was murdered most foul following one uneventful such gathering. The people at Maude's final performance all have secrets; one has a secret identity and cannot be readily found.

Could it be the wife of a man campaigning hard to keep his seat in Parliament? Or the Major General who is writing letters blasting Aubrey Serracold who must fight against the Tory candidate, Thomas's enemy Charles Voisey.

While Thomas's work for the Special Branch involves protecting the crown, covertly, murder suspects and political machinations are surprisingly closely intertwined. It is apparent that Voisey is at the heart of the danger to the crown; Thomas's job is to uncover the danger and the connection with the murder of Miss Lamont. This time he must do without the aid of his beloved wife, Charlotte, who is made too aware of the danger she and her children face, even as they remain far from London and undiscovered by Voisey and his men.

Perry's skill at crafting political intrigue during the rule of Queen Victoria is unmatched. The perpetrators of injustice must be handled subtly, with decorum. Investigations into Members of Parliament must be handled with great discretion. The challenge is not just to solve the murder but to protect his family from future dangers - how can both be done without insulting the Queen's choice of advisers.

Layer upon layer of deception, manipulation and danger fills the pages of SOUTHAMPTON ROW. Charlotte and the children are in danger; Thomas is being led in the wrong direction in his search for suspects. All this happens while Charles Voisey moves closer to a seat in Parliament. As the election approaches, the danger increases, and Thomas's detective skills and intuitions are pushed to the limit in the unerringly suspenseful SOUTHAMPTON ROW.

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