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Seven Dials

by Anne Perry
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Product Details

  • Publisher: Ballantine Books
  • Publishing date: 30/03/2004
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-13: 9780345440082
  • ISBN: 0345440080

Synopsis

Millions of readers who love New York Times bestselling author Anne Perry and her novels cherish the magical passport she provides into the age of Victoria at its brilliant zenith. It was an unforgettable time when rich and powerful Englishmen contrived to make themselves even richer and more powerful. When Englishwomen were the glittering ornaments of an opulent society, rolling over cobblestones in their costly carriages, entertaining the chosen few in their elegant drawing rooms. Thoughts of the poor, rotting in London slums and in British dominions east and west of Suez, seldom troubled this prideful aristocracy. But a shocking murder was soon to remind them of their ever-present vulnerability.

In the first gray of a mid-September morning, Thomas Pitt, mainstay of Her Majesty's Special Branch, is summoned to Connaught Square mansion where the body of a junior diplomat lies huddled in a wheelbarrow. Nearby stands the tenant of the house, the beautiful and notorious Egyptian woman Ayesha Zakhari, who falls under the shadow of suspicion. Pitt's orders, emanating from Prime Minister Gladstone himself, are to protect -- at all costs -- the good name of the third person in the garden: senior cabinet minister Saville Ryerson. This distinguished public servant, whispered to be Ayesha's lover, insists that she is as innocent as he is himself. Could it be true?

In the dead man's less-than-stellar reputation, Pitt finds hope. But in ancient Alexandria, where the victim was once an army officer, hope grows dim. For there, Pitt receives intimations of deadly entanglements stretching from Egyptian cotton fields to Manchester cotton mills, from the noxious London slum known as Seven Dials to the madhouse called Bedlam.

Meanwhile, in a packed courtroom at the Old Bailey, time is ticking away for Ayesha and Saville. With Pitt and his clients racing against the hangman, the trial reaches its pulse-pumping climax.


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  • Much better than the most recent half-dozen in the series
    From Amazon

    I've worked my way through this entire series now, and while the first dozen or so (this is no. 23) were generally well done -- good, reasonably accurate descriptions of London of the 1880s, pointed contrast between Society's drawing rooms and the miserable existence of the laboring classes, vivid character development of both working cops and the elite -- the last few have shown a definite decline. Thomas Pitt, Inspector and then Superintendent at the Bow Street station, and a both very talented and highly empathic detective, has now been stripped of his position by the Forces of Evil (the entirely fictional and extremely melodramatic "Inner Circle") and dumped in the lap of Special Branch, where he's beginning to learn how to be a secret policeman instead of a public one. The "Seven Dials" area of London is a pretty minor player in this one, too; the author should have called it "Alexandria," because that's where Pitt is sent to gather information on a beautiful and patriotic Egyptian woman living in London who is caught red-handed wheeling a dead bottom through her back garden in a wheelbarrow. Also implicated is a high Foreign Office official, which is how Pitt and his "M"-like boss, Narraway, get involved. If the details of the motive for the murder become public, the government could fall, Egypt could erupt in revolt, and Suez might even be lost. Can't have that, right? The action is low-key, the plot development takes its time, and the reader will enjoy the scenery, both internal and external. At least The Inner Circle manages not to appear this time, and it's fun watching Pitt trying to deal with a totally foreign milieu -- even though Perry could have spent a lot more time painting its details.

  • I was mesmerized
    From Amazon

    I never really liked political anything, even in Anne Perry, but I could not put this one down. I finished it in one day. She did not disappoint me!!!! Thanks Anne

    elizabeth cohen

  • A delightful mystery.
    From Amazon

    Classic murder mysteries rely heavily for both their effectiveness and their appeal on a "slight of hands," and one of the tricks is a set of characters in whom one can become interested enough to relate to them in some way. Another is to create an ambiance that arrests the attention and keeps it. Anne Perry has a great knack for creating both memorable characters and an interesting stage on which they play out their roles in the story.

    Her Seven Dials is an amazing recreation of Victorian England in the earlier days of the queen's reign. The era is young yet, and the political turmoil that will set the stage for World War I and the social changes it brings is just beginning. Some of the older characters can remember the Napoleon wars. Thomas and Charlotte Pitt are paradigms of lower middle class life in the period, with their fate in the hands of Thomas's mentor in the Secret Service, Victor Narroway, and their maid servant and her beau, Samuel Tellman, in theirs. The interactions among all of the characters gives as much a feeling for the period as does the mention of hansom cabs, harnesses, and horse manure in the streets. Even the yellow skies and the chocking, smog filled London streets is classic for the era.

    Perry's characters are charming and detailed, each a work of art in them selves. The maidservant is spunky, savvy and sensitive, used to the school of hard knocks, and her friend Tellman is gruff, masculine in an "old fashioned" sort of way, and smarts under the unfairness of social inequality and the period's newly arising sense of social empowerment. The stiff, formal society in which Charlotte Pitt grew up and still has family is faced with an erosion of their privileges and with a growing sense that they are on the threshold of major change. They are like dinosaurs waiting for the asteroid to strike them.

    All of this sets the background for a puzzling murder of a man who should not really have been where he was at all and certainly not dead. The central characters push forward in an attempt to make sense of the confusing, almost irrational facts. It is this irrationality that is part of the slight of hands. Eventually Pitt must go to Egypt to unravel the mystery by back tracking the murdered man and his alleged murderess.

    The venue in Egypt is Alexandria, a city to which I have been about three or four times. The descriptions of Victorian Alexandria might still easily pass for today, although the city today is more Western than Cairo and much more so than Thebes. The description of the rug suq was definitely memorable. The quarrel that leads to a small riot in the book reminded me of the minor violence that occurred among men there and in Cairo in the few days before Sadat was assassinated. Like the brewing sense of political unrest in the book, here too, everyone felt the tension in the air; everyone knew that something was afoot, but no one knew what was about to happen. It was a very tense time, and so was Pitt's Egypt.

    I can not for the life of me understand the author's description of malaquia, an Egyptian soup--which I refer to as "frog-pond"--made for special occasions, as "delicious." I found it slimy and green. The latter I could handle, the former I couldn't. The mention of the sound of what seemed like crickets to Pitt, also brings back memories. Actually the sound is not crickets but a similar one made by small frogs in the canals and on the banks of the Nile. It's very restful. All in all, Pitt's trip to Egypt was as memorable for me as for him.

    A delightful mystery.


  • Surprise Ending!
    From Amazon

    Very descriptive and historically accurate. You'll love her vivid pictures of Alexandria. Egypt comes alive. I'm a harsh critic but this work bowled me over.

  • Great mystery
    From Amazon

    Anne Perry doesn't disappoint in this recorded book. Read well, and easily one for the bookshelf.

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