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
    Paperback:
    Jan 2002, 368 pages

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"No," Juster agreed. "It seems eccentric, to say the least, and unnecessarily inconvenient. When you had noticed the books, what did you do then?"

"I looked more closely at the body of Mr. Fetters and I asked the butler, who was the one who found him, to tell me exactly what had happened." Pitt glanced at the judge to see if he would be permitted to repeat it.

The judge nodded.

Reginald Gleave sat tight-lipped, his shoulders hunched, waiting.

"Proceed, if it is relevant," the judge directed.

"He told me that Mr. Adinett had left through the front door and been gone about ten minutes or so when the bell rang from the library and he went to answer it," Pitt recounted. "As he approached the door he heard a cry and a thud, and on opening it in some alarm, he saw Mr. Fetters's ankles and feet protruding from behind the large leather chair in the corner. He went to him immediately to see if he was hurt. I asked him if he had moved the body at all. He said he had not, but in order to reach it he had moved the chair slightly."

People began to shift restlessly. This all seemed very unimportant. None of it suggested passion or violence, still less murder.

Adinett was staring steadily at Pitt, his brows drawn together, his lips slightly pursed.

Juster hesitated. He knew he was losing the jury. It was in his face. This was about facts, but far more than that it was about belief.

"Slightly, Mr. Pitt?" His voice was sharp. "What do you mean by 'slightly'?"

"He was specific," Pitt replied. "He said just as far as the edge of the rug, which was some eleven inches." He continued without waiting for Juster to ask. "Which meant it would have been at an awkward angle for the light either from the window or the gas bracket, and too close to the wall to be comfortable. It blocked off access to a considerable part of the bookshelves, where books on travel and art were kept, books the butler assured me Mr. Fetters referred to often." He was looking directly at Juster. "I concluded it was not where the chair was normally kept, and I looked at the rug to see if there were indentations from the feet. There were." He took a deep breath. "There were also faint scuff marks on the pile and when I looked again at Mr. Fetters's shoes, I found a piece of fluff caught in a crack in the heel. It seemed to have come from the rug."

This time there was a murmur from the court. Reginald Gleave's lips tightened, but it looked more like anger and resolution than fear.

Again Pitt went on without being asked. "Dr. Ibbs had told me he assumed Mr. Fetters leaned too far, overbalanced, and fell off the steps, cracking his head against the shelves on the corner. The force of the blow, with his body weight behind it, not only caused bruising severe enough for him to lose consciousness, but broke his neck, and this was the cause of his death. I considered the possibility that he had been struck a blow which had rendered him insensible, and then the room had been arranged to look as if he had fallen." There was a sharp rustling in the front row, a hiss of indrawn breath. A woman gasped.

One of the jurors frowned and leaned forward.

Pitt continued without change of expression, but he could feel the tension mounting inside him, his palms sweaty.

"Books he would be likely to read had been pulled out and dropped. The empty spaces left by them had been filled from the top shelf, to explain his use of the ladder. The chair had been pushed close to the corner, and his body placed half concealed by it."

A look of comic disbelief filled Gleave's face. He gazed at Pitt, then at Juster, and finally at the jury. As playacting it was superb. Naturally he had long known exactly what Pitt would say.

Juster shrugged. "By whom?" he asked. "Mr. Adinett had already left, and when the butler entered the room there was no one there except Mr. Fetters. Did you disbelieve the butler?"

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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