Thomas Pitt, Perry's craftily created member of Her Majesty's Special Branch, returns again in this sequel to Southhampton Row.

With the murder of minor diplomat Edwin Lovat, Pitt is assigned his next case. The circumstances surrounding the murder seem pretty cut and dried. An Egyptian-born woman, Ayesha Zakhari, was discovered hiding Lovat's body in a wheelbarrow, her discarded gun nearby. Her lover, Saville Ryerson, a member of Parliament, may also be implicated in the crime. But Pitt's stern boss hopes to circumvent any possible political repercussions and sends Pitt to Egypt to see what he can learn about the mysterious Zakhari.

With Perry's deft descriptive skill, her setting comes to life; from Pitts' middle-class Victorian neighborhood to the exotic sights and smells of Alexandria, Egypt. In the end, the simple murder belies a complex web of international intrigue.

The intricacies of the plot are sustained by the well-developed supporting characters, from the unflappable Lady Vespasia to the low-born but tenacious Gracie, the Pitts' maid. And the ever-evolving relationship of Thomas and his wife, Charlotte, adds a hint of long-term love to this multifaceted mystery. (Feb., 352 pp., $25.95)

Reviewed by: 
Sheri Melnick