cover image SEVEN DIALS


Anne Perry, . . Ballantine, $25.95 (352pp) ISBN 978-0-345-44007-5

In her 23rd Victorian mystery featuring Thomas and Charlotte Pitt (after 2002's Southampton Row), Perry uses a pending economic crisis to good effect. Now firmly ensconced in his job with Special Branch, Thomas looks into the murder of a junior diplomat, whose corpse turns up in a wheelbarrow in a garden belonging to a mysterious and beautiful Egyptian woman, Ayesha Zakhari. Pitt travels to Egypt for answers, but the more he learns about Miss Zakhari the more he suspects that she's the pawn in some ugly political game. The Pitts' maid, Gracie, involves Charlotte in the search for a missing valet. Gracie also enlists the aid of Thomas's former subordinate, Sergeant Tellman, and in one of the charming subplots of the book, their romance develops further. The trail leads Charlotte into the dark and dangerous alleys of London's Seven Dials district, and eventually she and Thomas discover that the two cases intersect in a horrifying way. Perry once again delivers a complex and satisfying tale that fans of the series will devour. (Feb. 4)

Forecast:With a big promotional push including national print ads and a sample chapter in the paperback edition of Southampton Row (Feb.), this should hit some bestseller lists. The London Times selected Perry as one of the 20th century's "100 Masters of Crime."