After "The Audacity of Hope" was such a remarkable, interesting and at the same time pleasant read, my next book was somehow doomed to be a bit disappointing - and sadly, "Der Verräter von Westminster" by Anne Perry was just that.
Having read several parts of Anne Perry's series starring Thomas Pitt and his clever, unconventional wife Charlotte before - and enjoyed them -, I now wonder whether I simply never noticed the shortcomings in the actual writing, or my personal standards of what makes a good book have risen lately, or this one is just not quite as good as the others.
The series featuring Thomas and Charlotte Pitt, plus a cast of recurring characters such as the street-wise, clever and pragmatic house maid Gracie; Charlotte's majestic, beautiful and extremely well-connected octogenarian Great-Aunt Vespasia and Thomas' boss, the lonely Victor Narraway who is secretly in love with Charlotte, is mainly set in Victorian London, with the exception of trips abroad or to places outside London on their various quests. Thomas starts out as a policeman, and later on in the series he is asked to join Her Majesty's secret service. Charlotte married him out of love, below her rank, but because she still has all those contacts in London's High Society, she is often able to help her husband with his inquiries by informally getting information from people who would never speak to him confidentially and in places where he would never be allowed in as a guest, only as a policeman.
You can read more about the series and the author on her website.
Sounds quite good, doesn't it? Well, until recently, I thought it was; I liked the thorough but unpretentious way Victorian life in various households of different class was portrayed, against the backdrop of political, social and economical realities of the time, something that is only possible with a lot of research.
But in this book of the series, by the original title "Betrayal at Lisson Grove" (why on earth did the German publishers think it fit to change this into "Der Verräter von Westminster", which literally means "The Traitor from Westminster"?), for the first time I noticed something odd about Anne Perry's style, and I'm afraid it is not the translator's fault; I guess I would have felt the same had I read the book in English:
The characters seem to have a rather strange way of dealing with their feelings and emotions. No, I do not mean the restrictions Victorian society placed upon men and women alike, only allowing what was deemed "proper conduct" between people who met at parties, at the theatre, on the street or at work. That would have fitted the story well and would have been perfectly explainable.
But every five pages or so (I did not actually count), any one of the characters "shudders" or "shivers" or "quivers" or "twitches" - no matter whether what has been said or thought justifies such a shock. Thomas and Charlotte, Victor Narraway and many others shudder and shiver their way through the elaborate story of a plot directed against Her Majesty and, ultimately, the whole order of the Great British Empire.
At first, I merely felt mildly irritated by all the quivering and trembling, but after a while, I'm afraid I have to say it started to become a bit ridiculous. I even began to wait for the next shudder running down someone's spine, and I was never disappointed. Only towards the end, when the story picks up speed and the plot is uncovered and now must be stopped before anything too dramatic happens, the shivering stops - maybe there wasn't enough time, or maybe the author forgot about it.
I guess I'll read one more book from the series, in order to find out whether that is her "mark" and I just never noticed it or this book was an exception and she tried something new.