First Sentence: They were alone in the small room where the accused was allowed to take visits with his lawyer.
Junior barrister Daniel Pitt has just won his first case defending Roman Blackwell, a private inquiry agent. Now, he has been called to the Old Bailey to assist his fellow attorney, Toby Kitteridge, on a case. With the trial lost, biographer Russell Graves has been found guilty of murdering his wife and is due to be hanged in 21 days. Daniel, along with fellow barrister Kitteridge, has been instructed to have Graves’ sentence overturned. While Kitteridge searches the law for a loophole, Daniel is determined to find the real killer.
Beginning in a prison interview room certainly sets the tone of what is to follow and creates an initial gravitas, especially when a trial is going badly. In this instance, it also gives us some concern about the effectiveness of our protagonist as an attorney—“Daniel frankly found the law far more tedious than he had expected to.”
With the start of a new series comes the creation of characters we hope will continue on. Blackwell and his mother are true examples of friendship and understanding the importance of paying ones moral debts. Daniel’s landlady, Mrs. Portescale, is delightful. Kitteridge is an excellent foil to Daniel—“Kitteridge loved it; he loved the idea that the law was an elegant but imperfect servant of justice.” Perry also establishes good conflict, both with the opposing counsel and later with his fellow barrister, Kitteridge—“Do you care about anything? Don’t you care about the law?” Introduced later in the story is Miriam, who is analytical, observant, has studied medicine and chemistry and has passed her exams but is not recognized with a degree. Such is the discrimination of the time. It will be interesting to see which, if any, of these characters continue as the series carries forward.
On the chance that this book may be someone’s first entry into reading Perry, she does an excellent job of introducing all the members of the Pitt family. For those well acquainted with the Pitt series, this book is a very good segue between the series of Thomas and Charlotte to Daniel. There is, however, one large detail which is unexplained and would have been helpful to the series readers. Still, it is interesting how the recounting of Daniel’s family leads to his awareness of the importance of connections—“My dear, a secret exposed is a secret you can no longer use. It is an opportunity wasted, is it not?”
The analysis of the crime scene is well done and prompts Daniel to ask the questions some readers may have had. The scene of Daniel having dinner in the servants’ quarters is particularly wonderful as it shows the dynamics of the staff and their relationship. It also provides an opportunity to describe a meal which is relatively simple but enviable. Mr. Falthorne, butler to the Graveses, is delightful and provides an interesting revelation. There is nothing like hitting that “Aha!” moment when a significant link is made. However, it is also an opportunity for Perry to present Daniel with a serious moral dilemma.
Perry doesn’t take the easy way out. She challenges both her readers and her characters. This is, in part, what makes her such an effective author. Although set in the early 1900’s her observations are timely--“Most people, women included, judge according to their own experience. We think what we need to think in order to hold on to our own worldview and validate what we must believe. It is a matter of survival, although it may seem merely to be prejudice to someone else. It takes a lot of courage to turn your world upside down and start again.” She states truths; those things we intrinsically know but seldom say.
“Twenty-One Days” is a very good start to this new series. The plot has twists, turns, and surprising revelations. The element of time running out is well used, and the final courtroom scene very effective. Perry never disappoints.
TWENTY-ONE DAYS: A Daniel Pitt Novel (Hist Mys-Daniel Pitt-London-1910) – VG+
Perry, Anne – 1st book in seriesBallentine Books – April 2018