A Darker Reality: An Elena Standish Novel

Written by Anne Perry
Review by Dorothy Schwab

Third in the Elena Standish Series, A Darker Reality opens in the spring of 1934, as Elena, an M16 agent, has made the long journey from London to Washington, DC to celebrate the 60th wedding anniversary of her maternal grandparents, Wyatt and Dorothy Baylor, a couple known to be of great wealth and with political and influential connections. As a photographer, Elena is interested in capturing elegant guests such as scientist Harmon Worth and his Austrian wife, Lila, President Franklin Roosevelt and his wife Eleanor, and others of “high society, politicians, the rich and ambitious.”

Anne Perry’s lush descriptions of the magnificent home and luxurious setting help settle readers into a comfortable niche to observe and listen in on Elena’s conversations with the well-connected, distinguished guests, which lead her to question her grandparents’ political beliefs. Elena’s background and involvement in MI6, the British secret service, as well as extensive descriptions of the radical, political leanings of the Baylors and their guests, are seamlessly woven into dialogue. These details become immensely important as a chauffeur interrupts the lavish party to announce Lila Worth has been run over in the driveway! Chaos and mystery ensue; police are summoned, guests questioned.

Anne Perry leads readers on a steady march, keenly analyzing suspects, subjecting readers to palm-sweating confrontations with Agent Elena in disguise and deep, emotional delving into grief. Through quiet conversations, characters’ conscious and innermost feelings develop as Perry explores the close relationship of Elena and Grandfather Lucas, former head of MI6, and casts suspicion on fellow agent James Allenby. Political intrigue or a domestic issue? Elena and Allenby concur; the killer is among the guests. A “tangled web of distrust” leads readers through this maze to an appalling and ghastly conclusion. What’s next for Elena Standish?