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A new and darker Pitt
on April 14, 2012
'Dorchester Terrace' marks a point of departure for Thomas Pitt, protagonist of Perry's popular Victorian series, and a restructuring of the series itself. It remains to be seen if fans embrace this new, darker Pitt. If they do, it may be reluctantly, in exchange for the broad new range of plots and character conflict made possible by the genre shift from period mystery to international espionage.
Perry's skill, as well as her burden, has been inventing new plots over nearly thirty novels. By the time Perry moved Pitt to Special Branch, a forerunner of MI5, the strain was showing. Wife Charlotte and popular secondary characters were reduced to cameos, and the stories lost their unique charm.
'Dorchester Terrace' returns to series strengths: Pitt's new stature requires him to rely on wife Charlotte for her social acumen. Lady Vespasia's and Emily and Jack Radley's aristocratic connections provide vital clues and timely help. Perry's weaknesses are also present: characters ruminate at length; one or two interviews provide the bulk of the information to solve the mystery; the ultimate motivation for the crime is thin.
The chief interest in 'Dorchester Terrace' is Pitt's ethical dilemma. Will he compromise his principles, and how far, to protect his country from deadly threats? Does he have the strength, the ruthlessness, to move in the murky arena of espionage, even kill, if necessary? Pitt's adversaries are betting he does not. Even Pitt himself, the man Perry has taken pains to develop as a deeply ethical and compassionate man, does not know. His self-discovery, and the shocking conclusion, are the reasons to read 'Dorchester Terrace.'