Thomas Pitt, now Commander of Special Branch, is called out to look into a matter that at first blush hardly seems like a Special Branch concern: the disappearance of a maid from a wealthy home on Shooters' Hill. The owner of the home, though, is Dudley Kynaston, a critically important naval weapons specialist. Britain can't afford any scandal around him. But it seems that Kitty Ryder has likely run off with her suitor, an itinerant carpenter, and there's little risk of scandal. Pitt is happy to turn the matter back to the local police.
A few weeks later, a woman's mutilated body is found in a gravel pit not far from the Kynaston home. Although she can't be positively identified, she fits the general description of Kitty Ryder, the missing lady's maid. Now there's a dangerous hint of potential scandal.
It gets worse when Somerset Carlisle, a sometime friend and ally of Pitt's, starts asking questions in Parliament about the matter, making sure it's a cause célèbre Special Branch--Thomas--can't ignore.
In this latest Pitt adventure, Charlotte and her sister Emily aren't able to participate as they used to when Pitt was with the Metropolitan Police, but they don't want to be mere spectators, and Emily in particular is feeling bored, frustrated, and insecure. In counterpoint to Pitt's pursuit of a dangerous mystery that threatens national security, Charlotte, Emily, and Great-Aunt Vespasia grapple with what at first seem far more personal and private issues.
Most of our old friends are here again, and after twenty-nine volumes, the characters and their relationships continue to grow deeper, richer, and more interesting. I honestly felt the series hit a rough patch and nearly collapsed when Pitt was first forced out of the regular police and transferred to Special Branch, and I thought it might peter out. Happily, it hasn't. Perry and her characters found their footing again, and the series has remained a real pleasure.
An interview with Anne Perry:
I borrowed this book from the library.