Excerpt from The Whitechapel Conspiracy by Anne Perry, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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The Whitechapel Conspiracy

by Anne Perry

The Whitechapel Conspiracy
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  • First Published:
    Jan 2001, 368 pages
    Jan 2002, 368 pages

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Pitt felt himself flushing with annoyance. He did know better. He should have been more careful. He had sworn to himself he would make no mistake whatever, and already he had done so. He was nervous. His hands were clammy. Juster had said it all depended upon him. They could not rely absolutely on anyone else.

The judge looked at Pitt.

"In order, Superintendent, even if it seems less clear to the jury."

"Yes, my lord." Pitt heard the tightness in his own voice. He knew it was tension but it sounded like anger. He cast his mind back to that vivid room. "The top shelf of books was well above arm's reach, and there was a small set of steps on wheels for the purpose of making access possible. It lay on its side about a yard away from the body's feet, and there were three books on the floor, one flat and closed, the other two open, facedown and several pages bent." He could see it as he spoke. "There was a corresponding space on the top shelf."

"Did you draw any conclusions from these things which caused you to investigate further?" Juster asked innocently.

"It seemed Mr. Fetters had been reaching for a book and had overbalanced and fallen," Pitt replied. "Dr. Ibbs had told me that there was a bruise on the side of his head, and his neck was broken, which had caused his death."

"Precisely so. That is what he has testified," Juster agreed. "Was it consistent with what you saw?"

"At first I thought so. . . ."

There was a sudden stirring of attention around the room, and something that already felt like hostility.

"Then, on looking more closely, I saw several small discrepancies that caused me to doubt, and investigate further," Pitt finished.

Juster raised his black eyebrows. "What were they? Please detail them for us so we understand your conclusions, Mr. Pitt."

It was a warning. The entire case rested upon these details, all circumstantial. The weeks of investigation had uncovered no motive whatsoever for why Adinett should have wished harm to Martin Fetters. They had been close friends who seemed to have been similar in both background and beliefs. They were both wealthy, widely traveled, and interested in social reform. They had a wide circle of friends in common and were equally respected by all who knew them.

Pitt had rehearsed this in his mind many times, not for the benefit of the court, but for himself. He had examined every detail minutely before he had even considered pursuing the charge.

"The first thing was the books on the floor." He remembered stooping and picking them up, angry that they had been damaged, seeing the bruised leather and the bent pages. "They were all on the same subject, broadly. The first was a translation into English of Homer's Iliad, the second was a history of the Ottoman Empire, and the third was on trade routes of the Near East."

Juster affected surprise. "I don't understand why that should cause your doubt. Would you explain that for us."

"Because the rest of the books on the top shelf were fiction," Pitt answered. "The Waverley novels of Sir Walter Scott, a large number of Dickens, and a Thackeray."

"And in your opinion the Iliad does not go with them?"

"The other books on the middle shelf were on the subjects of Ancient Greece," Pitt explained. "Particularly Troy, Mr. Schliemann's work and discourses, objects of art and historical interest, all except for three volumes of Jane Austen, which would more properly have belonged on the top shelf."

"I would have kept novels, especially Jane Austen, in a more accessible place," Juster remarked with a shrug and a tiny smile.

"Perhaps not if you had already read them," Pitt argued, too tense to smile back. "And if you were an antiquarian, with particular interest in Homeric Greece, you would not keep most of your books on that subject on the middle shelves but three of them on the top with your novels."

Excerpted from The Whitechapel Conspiracyby Anne Perry. © January 2001. Excerpted by permission of Balantine Books, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher

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