Excerpt from Southampton Row by Anne Perry, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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Southampton Row

by Anne Perry

Southampton Row
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  • First Published:
    Feb 2002, 336 pages
    Feb 2003, 336 pages

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"I don't know how much to take for the children," Charlotte said as if it were a question. "How dirty will they get, I wonder . . "

They were in the bedroom doing the last of the packing before going for the midday train south and west.

"Very, I hope," Pitt replied with a grin. "It isn't healthy for a child to be clean . . . not a boy, anyway."

"Then you can do some of the laundry!" she replied instantly. "I'll show you how to use a flat iron. It's very easy-just heavy-and tedious."

He was about to retaliate when their maid, Gracie, spoke from the doorway. "There's a cabbie 'ere with a message for yer, Mr. Pitt," she said. " 'E give me this." She offered him a piece of paper folded over.

He took it and opened it up.

Pitt, I need to see you immediately. Come with the bearer of this message. Narraway.

"What is it?" Charlotte asked, a sharp edge to her voice as she watched his expression change. "What's happened?"

"I don't know, he replied. "Narraway wants to see me, but it can't be much. I'm not starting back with Special Branch for another three weeks."

Naturally she knew who Narraway was, although she had never met him. Ever since her first encounter with Pitt eleven years ago, in 1881, she had played a lively part in every one of his cases that aroused her curiosity or her outrage, or in which someone she cared about was involved. In fact, it was she who had befriended the widow of John Adinett's victim in the Whitechapel conspiracy and finally discovered the reason for his death. She had a better idea than anyone else outside Special Branch of who Narraway was.

"Well, you'd better tell him not to keep you long," she said angrily. "You are on holiday, and have a train to catch at noon. I wish he'd called tomorrow, when we'd have been gone!"

"I don't suppose it's much," he said lightly. He smiled, but the smile was a trifle downturned at the corners. "There've been no bombings lately, and with an election coming at any time there probably won't be for a while."

"Then why can it not wait until you come back?" she asked.

"It probably can." He shrugged ruefully. "But I can't afford to disobey him." It was a hard reminder of his new situation.

He reported directly to Narraway and he had no recourse beyond him, no public knowledge, no open court to appeal to, as he had had when a policeman. If Narraway refused him there was nowhere else to turn.

"Yes . . ." She lowered her eyes. "I know. Just remind him about the train. There isn't a later one to get there tonight."

"I will." He kissed her swiftly on the cheek and then turned and went out of the door and down the stairs to the pavement, where the cabbie waited for him.

"Right, sir?" the cabbie asked from the box.

"Yes," Pitt accepted. He glanced up at him, then climbed into the hansom and sat down as it started to move. What could Victor Narraway want from him that could not as easily wait until he reported back in three weeks? Was it just an exercise of his power, to establish again who was master? It could hardly be for his opinion; he was still a novice at Special Branch work. He knew almost nothing about the Fenians; he had no expertise in dynamite or any other explosives. He knew very little about conspiracies in quarrel, nor in honesty did he want to. He was a detective, a policeman. His skill was in solving crimes, unraveling the details and the passions of individual murder, not the machinations of spies, anarchists and political revolutionaries.

He had succeeded brilliantly in Whitechapel, but that was over now. All that they would ever know of the truth rested in silence, darkness and bodies decently buried to hide the terrible things that had happened to them. Charles Voisey was still alive, and they could prove nothing against him. But there had been a kind of justice. He, secret hero of the movement to overthrow the throne, had been maneuvered into seeming to have risked his life to save it. Pitt smiled and felt his throat tighten with grief as he remembered standing beside Charlotte and Vespasia in Buckingham Palace as the Queen had knighted Voisey for his services to the Crown. Voisey had risen from his knees too incensed with rage to speak which Victoria had taken for awe, and smiled indulgently. The Prince of Wales had praised him, and Voisey had turned and walked back past Pitt with a hatred in his eyes like the fires of hell. Even now Pitt felt a cold knot tighten in his stomach remembering it.

Excerpted from Southampton Row by Anne Perry Copyright 2002 by Anne Perry. Excerpted by permission of Ballantine 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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