Book Review: Death with a Double Edge by Anne Perry

Death with a Double Edge by Anne Perry is the fourth in the Daniel Pitt series, where the junior barrister’s investigation into his colleague’s murder leads him through London’s teeming underbelly to the suspicious dealings of one of England’s most influential shipbuilding magnates.

A policeman comes to Daniel Pitt’s law chambers and asks him to accompany him to the morgue, as a deceased man was found wearing a coat with Daniel’s card in the pocket. Daniel spots the coat.

It was like a blow that knocked out all the air out of his body. There was a boldly checked coat hanging up on a railing. There could not be two coats so ugly in exactly that loud, clanging check. Kitteridge had just bought it, and Daniel had been very rude, calling it an eyesore. And so it was. But he would give anything now to be able to take that back. It had been meant carelessly, teasing.

Even though he wasn’t ready—he would never be ready—Daniel steels himself to look at the face of his friend and colleague, Toby Kitteridge. He wonders how anyone can work at the morgue, with the unrelenting pain of constantly having to tell the living about the death of a loved one.

He knew the face, in spite of the knife slashes across the cheek and nose, and another over the neck, dark with congealed blood. It was not Kitteridge—although he was about the same height, as well as Daniel could judge of a man lying down—but Jonah Drake, one of the senior lawyers in his own chambers, one of the cleverest in court. Not a particularly likable man, but one with skills Daniel could not deny. In fact, reluctantly, he had admired him.

Barrister Jonah Drake had an enviable track record of convincing juries to exonerate his clients. In modern-day parlance, he was a rain-maker for the esteemed law firm of fford Croft and Gibson. The head of the firm, Marcus fford Croft, is worried that Drake’s methods were not entirely above-board, and he also wonders why Drake was killed in Mile End, a most insalubrious part of London. He asks Daniel to undertake a quiet investigation. Alluded to are fford Croft’s worries that his frequent memory lapses might be detrimental to uncovering the truth. Has he forgotten something that would explain Drake’s inexplicable murder?

About a year ago, Drake represented a young man, Evan Faber, who was accused of killing his older mistress. Evan was pronounced not guilty. When Daniel fills his parents in on Jonah Drake’s murder, Thomas Pitt advises his son to proceed cautiously.

“Do you know anything about Evan’s father, Erasmus Faber?”

 

“No. Who is he?”

 

“Faber? Owner of the biggest shipbuilding company in Britain.”

 

Charlotte moved uncomfortably beside Daniel, but she refrained from interrupting.

 

“What has that to do with it?” Daniel asked. “Drake got Evan off, and it looks as if he was innocent, so it was a just decision, reached after due process. Drake was brilliant. He left everyone feeling as if it were the right outcome, reached in the right way, after a hell of a struggle.”

 

Pitt’s face was unreadable. “Avoid Erasmus Faber if you can,” he warned.

 

“Why? Is he above the law?”

 

Pitt’s face was bleak. “No one is. At least, theoretically … “

 

“But?”

 

“But … at the moment, he’s a man very important to the government. And since you seem to be satisfied that Drake came to the right conclusion, in the right way, you don’t need to question the verdict. Why did you even mention it, side by side with a case that wasn’t satisfactorily concluded?”

 

“Because it was a hard-fought battle, and the police never found whoever did it,” Daniel answered, stiffening in his seat. “But the jury were all satisfied that it wasn’t Evan.”

 

“If there was no evidence pointing to Evan, why did the police arrest him?” Charlotte asked.

Daniel is unwilling to ignore these questions. His father, Sir Thomas Pitt, the head of Special Branch, is warned to stand down. His Majesty George V’s government would strongly prefer that nothing disrupt their relationship with Faber senior. Erasmus Faber’s shipping operation is a vital cog in Great Britain’s blueprint to dominate at sea. But neither Daniel nor Thomas are particularly good at following the orders of powerful men that ask them to ignore the misdeeds of other rich and powerful individuals. The Pitts know the consequence of inaction. Plato said, ”The penalty good men pay for indifference to public affairs is to be ruled by evil men.” Their parallel inquiries are exacerbated when Evan Faber is murdered.

In Death with a Double Edge, young barrister Daniel Pitt comes into his own as a calculating, clever investigator. For the first time, Daniel Pitt investigates without the formidable talents of Marcus’s daughter, Miriam fford Croft. She is in Amsterdam, studying to become certified as a forensic pathologist, an educational path that is closed to her in England. He goes toe to toe with his formidable father, Sir Thomas Pitt, head of Special Branch. Not that Pitt père and fils are at odds; they persevere because they believe evil actions cannot be excused or swept away, even for a perceived greater good. This belief is challenged to the core when Charlotte Pitt is kidnapped, clearly to put a spoke in their investigations.

Death with a Double Edge is the fourth Daniel Pitt mystery, but for all intents and purposes, it’s also a continuation of the Charlotte & Thomas Pitt series, of which Murder on the Serpentine, published in 2017, was #32. Brava Anne Perry—long may we continue to follow the exploits of the Pitt family.

Read Janet Webb’s review of the third Daniel Pitt novel, One Fatal Flaw!

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