Perry kicks off a new series in a new era by handing his first big murder case to the son of her longtime hero Sir Thomas Pitt, head of the Met’s Special Branch (Murder on the Serpentine, 2016, etc.).
Almost literally yanked out of the courtroom where he’s defending dicey private inquiry agent Roman Blackwell on a charge of homicide, Daniel Pitt, who’s been a junior barrister for only a year, is tapped to assist his distinguished colleague Toby Kitteridge in the much higher-profile defense of Russell Graves, a tell-all biographer charged with bashing his wife, Ebony, to death in her bedroom and setting her head on fire. The case is already winding down when Daniel steps into the Old Bailey, and his emotional last-minute questions aren’t enough to save Graves from a guilty verdict. But Marcus fford Croft, Daniel’s head of chambers, doesn’t intend to let that verdict stand. He demands that Kitteridge and Daniel get it reversed, Kitteridge by looking for new legal arguments, Daniel by finding new evidence, before Graves hangs in three weeks. Hardly has Perry begun to count down the days to the execution when Daniel comes across a stunning new development: The subject of Graves’ latest exposé was none other than the late Victor Narraway, an old friend of Sir Thomas Pitt, who’s liberally smeared along with his mentor and predecessor. Now that Daniel’s reasons for wanting to see Graves executed are at least as powerful as his reasons for seeking his acquittal, the stage seems set for an epic battle of conflicting passions and loyalties. Alas, the windup of the case is a lot less compelling than its setup.
Even so, Perry, who seems just as comfortable in 1910 as she ever did back in Victoria’s day, provides a great first half and raises a number of pointed ethical questions before she rescues her hero from having to resolve them.