Friday, April 10, 2015

Degrees of Freedom: The Angel Court Affair a novel by Anne Perry

The Angel Court Affair is the 28th novel in the Charlotte and Thomas Pitt historical fiction mystery series by Anne Perry. The story takes place in Victorian Great Britain at the turn of the 20th Century, a time of threatening international conflict. Throughout the world, because of booming industrialization, nations are making it possible for traditionally lower class citizens to rise up from their station in life and demand more of the resulting economic gains of their countries. Leaders of these countries are capitalizing on the energy of the citizens to expand markets and aggressively compete with other nations.

Thomas Pitt’s job with the Special Branch is to protect the British government from subversion and attack by other countries. In this case, Spain is in conflict with the United States and British politicians are fearful of becoming involved in a European war. In this era of great tension, Sophia Delacruz, born in Britain but married to a wealthy Spanish man, visits her home country on a religious mission. She is driven to preach a vision of Christianity that is inclusionary, open to all people rich or poor good or evil, with the assumption that God has made a world in which every individual has the free will to evolve toward good work in society.

Sophia’s message seems to be a positive challenge across religious beliefs with the goal of reformation from exclusionary to inclusionary practices. This revolutionary thought is disturbing to believers who cling to their somewhat meaningless but unchanging religious rites adding to the unrest of the fin de si├Ęcle of the era. Sophia is in danger and Pitt must prevent harm coming to her that would trigger aggressive action against Britain by Spain. Pitt's wife Charlotte gives him insight into the reaction of women to Sophia's speeches that reflects their moving toward independence and freedom in British society.

Anne Perry describes her method of writing in this mystery series as taking a contemporary idea and moving it back to the Victorian era. Perry has created a scenario that illustrates that a war between countries may be started by a relatively minor incident given the context of exclusionary ideologies and the drive toward individual development and identity. The Angel Court Affair may be another contemporary warning to us all that when religious beliefs have no degrees of freedom, are not free to evolve with changes in economic and political life, personal and societal violence is only one incident away.

This is a very good historical mystery novel and I will read other Charlotte and Pitt novels in the series. This novel can be read as a stand alone volume in the series. Anne Perry’s writing may be considered Victorian, and I was still adjusting to the old-fashioned sentence structure as I finished reading the novel. Part of the enjoyment of reading the book was to feel like a stranger in a strange land having to learn the language of the time.

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