"Two fiery deaths have young lawyer Daniel Pitt and his scientist friend Miriam fford Croft racing to solve a forensic crisis in an explosive novel from the New York Times bestselling author of Triple Jeopardy. When a desperate woman comes to Daniel seeking a lawyer for her boyfriend, Rob Adwell, Daniel is convinced of the young man's innocence. Adwell has been accused of murder and setting a fire to conceal the body, but Daniel is sure that science can absolve him-and the brilliant Miriam fford Croft is the best scientist Daniel knows. Working together with Miriam, Daniel reveals Adwell's innocence by showing that an accidental fire caused the victim's death. But it's not long before Adwell is killed in the same fiery fashion. If these deaths are, in fact, murders, what could Miriam have missed? As the evidence begins to contradict itself, Adwell's girlfriend comes into question-and so do the methods Miriam has been using. Soon Miriam's career hangs in the balance, and what started as an accidental fire seems to be part of a larger plot of revenge, with victims accumulating in its wake. Now Miriam and Daniel must uncover who or what is stoking these recurring flames-before they, too, find themselves burned"-
Anne Perry is the New York Times bestselling author of two acclaimed series set in Victorian England: the William Monk novels, including Dark Tide Rising and An Echo of Murder, and the Charlotte and Thomas Pitt novels, including Murder on the Serpentine and Treachery at Lancaster Gate. She is also the author of a series featuring Thomas and Charlotte Pitt&;s son, Daniel, including One Fatal Flaw and Triple Jeopardy, as well as five World War I novels, sixteen holiday novels, most recently A Christmas Revelation, and a historical novel, The Sheen on the Silk, set in the Ottoman Empire. Anne Perry lives in Los Angeles.
Perry has written an astonishing number of historical mysteries: 32 novels in the Charlotte and Thomas Pitt series and 24 in the William Monk series, all of them set in Victorian England. Now, she's on her third series, this one with a "son of premise in which Daniel Pitt, a young barrister and the son of Thomas and Charlotte, gets involved in solving crimes. Perry has extended her time frame here, with this third installment in Daniel's series taking place in 1910, but she has kept all the ornate dialogue and the London atmospherics-the city's dark underbelly, usually encased in fog. This time a woman seeks Daniel's help in clearing her boyfriend, accused of murdering his friend and then setting fire to the warehouse in which they met. Then the boyfriend himself is found murdered in the same way. Daniel's consultant, a brilliant female scientist, brings in a great deal of forensics concerning arson and cracked skulls. The forensics provide a nice touch, but the plot is a bit plodding. Still, longtime Perry fans are in for the long haul. Copyright 2020 Booklist Reviews.
Rising barrister Daniel Pitt reluctantly accepts a case that entangles him with a professional adversary as formidable as he is unscrupulous. Jessie Beale assures Daniel that despite all the evidence against him, her boyfriend, Rob Adwell, didn't bludgeon Paddy Jackson, his sometime partner in crime, or set fire to the warehouse they'd planned to rob, the place where Paddy's body was found. Desperate for an expert witness to refute the medical testimony, Daniel and Miriam fford Croft, the daughter of his head of chambers, who's partnered with him in two earlier cases (Triple Jeopardy, 2019, etc.), ask Sir Barnabas Saltram, the forensic pathologist who discouraged Miriam from pursuing her medical studies 20 years ago, to examine Jackson's corpse, assuming that his nonpareil reputation will give whatever alternative theory of the crime he advances well-nigh irrefutable status. Their plan works all too well. Bolstered by Saltram's testimony, Adwell is found not guilty, setting the stage for his own death in a remarkably similar arson two months later. Jessie Beale, who all but confesses her guilt to Daniel, smilingly tells him that Saltram's testimony will surely get her off as well—especially since the distinguished expert couldn't possibly refuse to testify, because that would indicate he had doubts about his theory of Rob Adwell's death. Now Daniel labors to do everything he can to get his own client convicted while giving every public sign of mounting a vigorous defense. And the ancient case in which Saltram first proposed the theory Daniel used as Adwell's brief offers still more twists before the curtain comes crashing down. Reliable Edwardian legal suspense, liberally flavored with contemporary feminism, from an old pro. Copyright Kirkus 2020 Kirkus/BPI Communications. All rights reserved.
She sat on the other side of the desk from Daniel, tears sliding down her unblemished cheeks. "They'll hang him, won't they? she said huskily. "You're a lawyer. You got Mr. Blackwell off, and he would have hanged, for sure. Everyone along the dockside says that. She sniffed and gulped. "Please. You can make them see Rob didn't do it. Please?"
Daniel felt a sudden shiver, even though the room was warm. It was late September, and there was a nice fire burning in the grate. This was his room in the chambers of fford Croft and Gibson, one of the most prestigious law firms in London. It was situated in Lincoln's Inn, naturally, as were all the best. His room was not much more than a very large cupboard, this being his first placement after graduating from universityCambridge, to be precise.
She was waiting.
"What are they accusing Mr. Adwell of having done, Miss Beale? he asked. So far, she had not actually told him, only that it was serious, and it concerned a warehouse in the London docks south of the river.
"Set fire to the building," she replied softly, her gaze lowered.
"What building? And is he accused of doing it deliberately?"
"Would it help if it wasn't deliberate? She looked up at him, and hope flickered in her eyes.
"I don't know. He must not raise her expectations without cause. "You haven't told me exactly what building it was. Or how bad the fire was."
She looked small, hunched up into herself, and very afraid.
"Miss Beale . . . he said gently. "I can't help if I don't know everything about it. Where was it? What time of the day or night? And how much damage was done?"
She hunched her shoulders even more. "It was a big old warehouse, down on Tooley Street, other side of the river, and just before the Pool of London. And it burned in the night. Two nights ago. I suppose it was pretty bad, cause there isn't much of it left."
Daniel began to get the feeling that this might involve a great financial loss, depending on what had been stored there. "Was Mr. Adwell a night watchman there?
Miss Beale shook her head, setting the soft curls around her face moving. "No . . ."
"Then what was he doing there at night? He was there, wasn't he? If not, why do the police suspect him at all? He wondered if the man had been caught in a robbery that had gone wrong. "Was anyone else there that you know of?"
"Paddy Jackson were there, of course . . . she said, almost under her breath.
"Who is he? Daniel asked patiently. "And why of course?"
"Well, he wouldn't have got burned if he wasn't there, would he? She, too, sounded as if her patience was wearing thin.
Suddenly the room seemed depressingly close, almost airless. Daniel breathed in deeply, but it did not help. "Was . . . was Paddy Jackson badly burned?"
"Oh, yes," she said, looking at him, her eyes brimming with tears. "I'm afraid he was proper burned."
Suddenly it all became horribly clear. He knew what she was afraid of, and why. "He burned to death in the fire?"
She took a deep breath and nodded slowly, her gaze never shifting from his face. She swallowed hard.
He must get control of this. It was too big a case for him to handle. He would have to get Kitteridge in. Toby Kitteridge was his senior by several years, and had a wealth of experience. The Blackwell case, which Jessie Beale had referred to, had not been given to him by chambers. He had taken it privately, actually against orders, because Roman Blackwell was a highly disreputable rogue to whom Daniel owed a debt on honor. Blackwell could not pay anyone. Daniel had earned his undying friendship by pulling a rabbit out of a hat, as it were, and succeeded in proving Blackwell's innocence of murder. Marcus fford Croft, the head of chambers, had forgiven Daniel for taking the case without permission, probably because he was an old friend of Daniel's father's. He would not extend such leniency twice.
Jessie was staring at him, waiting for him to go on. Her face was full of hope, but it was fading even as he watched. This was probably the last place she could go.
"So, it is murder they're charging him with? he said.
She bit her lip and nodded.
"What was Adwell doing in the warehouse at night? And who is, or was, Paddy Jackson?"
"Paddy was one of the other Jackson boys. I suppose he still is. You don't get out of it just by dying. They'll always reckon he is one of them anyway."
Daniel was beginning to understand. "So, Paddy is dead, and Rob Adwell is blamed for it?"
"Yeah. She gulped.
"And was the fire accidental, or did Paddy cause it? Or someone else altogether? He tried to keep skepticism out of his voice.
She thought for a moment. "I reckon it could've been an accident, like. But maybe Paddy were setting the fire, and he weren't too good at it. Didn't leave himself a clear way out of it. Or it moved faster than he thought?"
"Seen a few fires, have you? He tried to sound as if he were asking out of mere innocent interest and not sarcasm.
"No, I haven't," she replied. "I got a decent scare of fires, but I heard people talk. There's a few fires down the docks way, and some of them are accidents, and some of them ain't."
"And this one?"
"I don't know. She spread her hands helplessly and then, looking at his face, quickly took them in again. "Aright! I reckon as Paddy set it, and out-clevered hisself. Rob got away, and Paddy didn't. But that in't Rob's fault, is it?"
"Maybe . . . and maybe not. If two people set out to commit a crimeand burning a warehouse down is a crimeand one of the people gets killed, the other one might be found guilty of his death. He watched the shadows in her face as her emotions changed and she understood the depth of what he said.
"Oh, well . . . it's . . . it's a good thing, in't it, that they weren't together doing something wrong, a crime, like? They wouldn't be doing anything together. Rob hated the Jacksons, and they hated him."
Daniel could not help but wonder if she had made that up on the spot. One thing he was certain of, it was a murky issue, and she was prepared to fight very hard indeed for the man she claimed to love.
"I'll go and see Mr. Adwell," he told her. "And then I'll learn exactly what the police have, and how they are charging him. And what they know about the fire. For instance, how it started. Don't tell me any more . . ."
She gave a slow smile, almost shy. She wasn't really a pretty girl; her mouth was a little large, her cheekbones high, giving her an almost catlike appearance. But she commanded attention, even a certain liking. "I won't tell you nothing more," she promised. "I can pay you . . . but not a lot . . . yet. She smiled properly for the first time, and it lit her face, softening its lines and lighting her eyes. "But I will," she promised.
"That's all right. He cut off whatever else she might say. "I'm going only to see if I can help to begin with. He stood up. Then she rose slowly, clutching her small bag in a gloved hand, almost like a child's. At twenty-five, he felt ridiculously older than her.
She had already given him her address, and he had no need to ask for anything further.
The chambers chief clerk, Impney, was waiting in the hall. He glanced at Daniel, then conducted Jessie Beale toward the main door.
As soon as she was gone, Daniel knocked at Kitteridge's office door. The moment he heard an answer, even though the words were indistinguishable, he opened the door and went in. He shut it behind him.
Kitteridge looked up from the papers he was reading, frowning slightly. "What? If you're bored, there's a whole lot of stuff you could draft replies to over there. He glanced at a table on the other end of his room, considerably larger than Daniel's. But he was ten years older than Daniel and generally considered the most promising barrister in chambers. He was taller also, well over six foot, and gangly, as if his limbs did not get the message from his brain at the same time. Daniel knew that Kitteridge was aware of this, even a trifle self-conscious, his shyness disarming the envy many people might have felt for his extraordinary skills. It did with Daniel; he felt slightly protective of Kitteridge at times, but this was definitely not one of them.