A Darker Reality: An Elena Standish Novel

Anne Perry. Ballantine, $28 (320p) ISBN 978-0-593-15936-1

Bestseller Perry’s routine third novel featuring British photographer-turned-spy Elena Standish (after 2020’s A Question of Betrayal) takes Elena to Washington, D.C., in 1934 to visit her grandparents, Dorothy and Wyatt Baylor, who are celebrating their 60th anniversary with a fancy party. At the party, Standish befriends Lila Worth, an Austrian whose scientist husband’s research has been financed by Wyatt. During the party, someone runs over Lila in the parking lot, killing her. Though Elena initially accepts the theory that Lila interrupted a car theft, Elena’s MI6 handler reveals that Lila was an operative engaged in stopping valuable scientific information reaching Germany—which suggests Lila was murdered. Elena’s investigation becomes personal once Wyatt is charged with the crime because bloodstains are found on his car, a development her grandfather, a presidential adviser, suspects is a politically motivated frame. Some less than persuasive details, such as FDR attending the party without a Secret Service escort, impede full suspension of disbelief. Maisie Dobbs fans interested in a similar but less-developed protagonist may be satisfied. Agent: Donald Maass, Donald Maass Literary. (Sept.)