Library Loot: the Anne Perry novels

Library LootMy friends know that I’m a crime novel “tragic”. Once I find an author I like reading and whose plots I find interesting and believable, I will read everything they write, and am most miffed if they stop writing or have the temerity to die, leaving me with no upcoming novels.

Imagine my surprise then, on a recent marauding of my favourite lending library, to discover a new author. Actually she’s not a new author as she has many books to her credit, it’s just that somehow she’d passed me by previously.

So like a glutton at a buffet I’ve been devouring book after book by her, either from the library or on Kindle. Luckily also my Brisbane friend had a collection on her shelves when I visited recently so I powered through as many as I could.

Anne Perry writes mainly four series of novels, all so far with a crime theme, or at least an element thereof. Three are situated in the Victorian era and with an interest in history and family history I’ve found this particularly interesting. Her words have really brought home just how horrendous and difficult were the lives of London’s poor in those days. It reminds me of a book I read by Jack London called People of the Abyss.

Not all of her plots are believable, and as with the TV series, Midsomer Murders, I do sometimes wonder how one family (even with a policeman included) can get itself into so much bother. Still I find it all too easy to jump on the magic carpet and suspend belief for a few hours.

P1190494Each of her series has key protagonists and in each case strong women play pivotal roles.

The Thomas and Charlotte Pitt series

Thomas Pitt is a detective with the Police and later Special Branch. His wife Charlotte, bred to Society, has taken a significant step downwards socially to marry him. This is believable because of her strong character and forthright views, so when she involves herself in some (many!) of his cases it’s sort of credible. Charlotte, along with sister Emily and great aunt-in-law Vespasia, become Pitt’s eyes and ears in a social strata he is not familiar with.

I do find it somewhat incredible that he would share the full details of his cases with Charlotte and that rather than the events is what stretches my belief the most. The lack of general confidentiality pushes the boundaries but doesn’t stop my engagement with the stories. Occasionally the plots get somewhat confusing but as yet this hasn’t spoiled my enjoyment of the books.

The William Monk series

In her other series about William Monk, a former policeman and private investigator, now member of London’s Water Police, he is also assisted by his wife Hester who runs a charity clinic for prostitutes. This series is darker with more harsh realities unrelieved by excursions into London Society and in many ways I enjoy this series more for this very reason.

World War I series

There are also five books set in World War I, with members of the Reavley family as the main characters. I think the author manages to reveal the sheer harshness of life in the trenches and the mental and physical dangers the men faced.  A thread between the books is a story of treason and an alternate approach to the resolution of the conflict but one which leaves the ordinary man with no choices.  She also manages to make it very clear how the war would impact life in England afterwards. All of these books have been very interesting and I found it easy to care about the characters.

Christmas novels

Anne Perry also has a series of Christmas novels and as yet I’ve only read one of them.  It too has a crime theme but of a lighter note.

In my view the author’s strengths are her characterisations and her ability to help us really understand or know the Victorian era, as well as WWI. Very occasionally there are lapses where she “tells” rather than “shows”, but they are minor down-points. I have gained a new respect and understanding for the poor of London (and no doubt other major cities): their lives really were marginal and infinitely difficult.

Recommendation: If you like crime or mystery, and you haven’t tried this author it would be well worth reading a few to see if you like them.

Magic Carpet factor: An average 3 ½ to 4 stars from me, for taking me back in time and really engaging with the characters.

Library Loot is a weekly event co-hosted by Claire from The Captive Reader and Marg from The Adventures of an Intrepid Reader that encourages bloggers to share the books they’ve checked out from the library.

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