Magazine article Book

Secrets and Lies: Anne Perry Has a Knack for Getting at the Darker Truths. (Crimetime)

Magazine article Book

Secrets and Lies: Anne Perry Has a Knack for Getting at the Darker Truths. (Crimetime)

Article excerpt

FOR MORE THAN TWO DECADES, Anne Perry has been writing polite Victorian-era mysteries in which dark secrets lurk behind glittering facades. The theme has obvious resonance in the author's own life: In 1954, fifteen-year-old Juliet Marion Hulme helped to murder a friend's mother, a crime that landed her in prison--and forty years later served as the inspiration for the director Peter Jackson's 1994 film Heavenly Creatures. Upon the film's release, a reporter revealed that Hulme and Perry are one and the same.

After emerging from prison, Perry changed her name and spent much of the '60s and '70s moving back and forth between Britain and the United States, working a number of odd jobs and writing fantasy tales and historical novels that nobody would buy. (She also converted to Mormonism, which she says appealed to her largely because it preaches that "you are only responsible for your own sins, not anybody else's") Not until she sent out The Cater Street Hangman--her first murder mystery--did she see her work published. That was in 1979. Today, Perry lives in a grand, sprawling mansion in the tiny Scottish town of Portmahomack, and more than ten million copies of her books are in print. Her last advance, for a five-part mystery series set during World War I, was $1.75 million. (She handed in the first volume to her publisher last fall.)

Both of Perry's Victorian-era series deal with the roiling emotions and desires that thrum beneath the surface of polite society. In The Cater Street Hangman, Charlotte Pitt quits her wealthy family for a difficult but more rewarding life with the low-born inspector Thomas Pitt; Charlotte's ability to see both strata of society helps her notice details that others miss. …

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