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Several of Perry's chatty Victorian mysteries for Inspector Pitt (with assists from spunky aristocrat-wife Charlotte) have ended up with revelations of sexual shenanigans. This time the sensationalism is delivered right from the start: the body of upper-class, 15-year-old Arthur Waybourne is found in a slum sewer, with medical evidence of syphilis and homosexual rape. Soon on trial and convicted: Arthur's taciturn, unlikable, married tutor Maurice Jerome--with damning circumstantial evidence from other tutor-ees, from a teenage homosexual prostitute (who claims that Jerome was a regular), from a female prostitute (who claims that Jerome was a voyeur, with Arthur in tow). But both the Inspector and his well-connected wife have their doubts about Jerome's guilt, suspecting that he may have been framed: both prostitute-witnesses soon disappear, one of them turning up dead. And, despite opposition from the blue-blooded powers-that-be, the Pitts (working independently from each other) try to nail the real culprit--obvious to the reader almost from the start--before poor, surly Jerome is executed. Talky and repetitious, with at least 100 pages' worth of recapitulation and padding--but readers who like a blend of cheerful chattingess (often anachronistic) and lurid doings will continue to find Perry a leisurely, readable entertainer, if hardly a creator of authentic period-mystery.

Pub Date: Nov. 14th, 1984
Publisher: St. Martin's