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4.0 out of 5 starsAnother Agreeable Finch
Reviewed in the United States on June 2, 2019
Charles Finch writes entertaining, agreeable mysteries, unhurried and nuanced, and he writes them well. He cuts the voice between modern expression and that of the 19th Century. It's a reasonable approach. The worst is the voice of the 19th poorly wrought. He makes, for the genre, few jarring errors. No one--not in England, not in the States--would have hailed a cabby as "Sir!". He should have known that. But, it's a peccadillo. Overall, Finch's are some of the most regularly entertaining mysteries of the type, and literate. So many are not. Why only four stars? I'm not certain myself. Perhaps there's a subtlety missing somewhere, some artefact of structure. Other than that, almost five stars.
This is the 4th in a series of Finch's detective Charles Lenox. In this particular novel he is newly married to his next door neighbor and they have joined their homes together. After returning from their honeymoon Lenox, now a member of parliament (see book 3), is asked by a friend Ludovic Starling to investigate the death of one of his male servants. But shortly after Lenox begins to investigate the death of said servant Starling is trying to direct him away from the investigation.
Meanwhile Lenox is trying to get his bearings in parliament as a new member and he brings along as his aide his trusty butler, Graham. Graham does extremely well at his new job, just as he had done in his old position. In fact Lenox and Graham seem more like close friends, almost brothers, than employer and employee, not that Graham ever crosses that line, he does not.
Meanwhile back in London while investigating the murder Lenox undercovers some startling facts about the young man killed and his relationship with Ludovic Starling. Soon Scotland Yard has made an arrest in the case but Lenox is not so sure they have the right man so he continues to investigate. He visits boxing clubs, servants quarters and public houses in his pursuit of the truth. The ending will surprise you.
Besides the murder investigation being interesting, so too is the relationship between Charles Lenox and Lady Jane his new wife. They have some bumps in the road they had not foreseen before marriage and you will have to read to see if they get them worked out.
I highly recommend this novel to anyone who likes Victorian settings, murder/mystery stories, and romances.
5.0 out of 5 starsAn intriguing mystery, full of effective twists.
Reviewed in the United States on January 5, 2011
First Sentence: "Clara, who is that gentleman?"
Charles Lenox has, at forty, entered a new phase in his life. He is newly married to Lady Jane, for years his best friend and neighbor, and he is newly elected to Parliament's House of Commons. The second of these events necessitates spending less time doing detective work--but not yet. A colleague in Parliament, Ludovic Starling, has asked Lenox to investigate the murder of one of his footman. As Lenox, and his protégée Dallington, move forward in the investigation, they are met with resistance not only from Scotland Yard but from Starling, who asks them to give up the case. An attack on Lenox stiffens his resolve to find the killer.
Finch has become a favorite of mine and this book, once again, demonstrates why as there were so many levels on which I enjoyed this book.
We are introduced to Lenox and Lady Jane through a conversation held by others, via a prologue which actually works as it allows their back story to be told without it seeming forced or cumbersome. Each of the characters are fully drawn with very brief exposition that brings them to life. One thing by which I am very impressed is how, with each book in the series, the characters lives individually grow and develop. This impacts not only each character but the relationships amongst them. Relationships are something Finch does extremely well, including the awkwardness of a newly married couple and a man making a major change in his career.
Mr. Finch's knowledge of Victorian England is evident in every page and yet, again, so seamlessly incorporated into the plot that it is informative rather than intrusive. Through Lenox's work in Parliament, we learn the concerns of the period and meet historical figures in their proper settings and appropriate roles. Through the birth of a child, we observe the customs and etiquette of the time. Although Finch is American, is studied at Oxford, now lives in the UK and delightfully conveys British humor and understatement, "For an Englishman is was a strange time to be in France....first because of Napoleon's rather uncouth attempt to conquer Europe..." The dialogue has a natural flow but also reflects the speech of the time.
Neither of the above is meant to undervalue the plot. The mystery is intriguing, and full of effective twists. I like that solution is no more obvious to Lenox than to us, the reader. We are presented with numerous possibilities, each dismissed, until the final resolution. Might I have figured it out? Perhaps; but the story involved me to the point where I wasn't deliberately trying.
The only reason I did not rate the book as "excellent" was the use of portents which were completely unnecessary. Otherwise, I thoroughly enjoyed this book and do highly recommend it with the proviso suggestion of starting the series at the beginning.
Reviewed in the United States on December 20, 2012
I do love to read Charles Finch's historic mysteries. It's like visiting with family friends - I hear all the latest gossip, what's new in the characters' lives, and what mysterious event puts them in a bit of danger. I absorb details of Victorian England, walk the streets, duck into a gentlemen's club or Parliament. All rather cozy, but not in the usual 'cozy-mystery' sense, although a bit of that too. The hero, Charles Lenox, is a detective, but that is more an avocation than a career. He works and worries throughout the book to solve a murder, while taking time off for his new duties as a member of Parliament, his devotion to his new bride, and his happy task as Godfather to a good friend's child. I did suspect the true villains before he did, but then, I'm a mystery writer myself, so maybe I had an unfair advantage. Even so, there were a few twists that surprised me. Adding to my enjoyment was the physical book itself. Although I read many e-books, I do appreciate the larger size of a trade paperback with pages that are printed with the proper grain of paper, and adequate margins so I needn't struggle holding the book open so I can see the full length of a line.
So, my verdict - good book for mental stimulation and enjoyment, and for tactile pleasure as well. flag
I have to disagree with the lengthy review above. This is not a good book; the prose is stilted( as in non-flowing, not old fasioned), the characterisation is one dimensional, the author's historical knowledge, contrary to the above reviewer's opinion, could be gained by spending 5 minutes on wikipedia and is common knowledge to any well read person. Oh and the plot, well i suppose there is one but it is rudimentary. The motive is glaringly obvious, as is the murderer after a while and there are no surprises or subtleties. The 2 stars are for the attractive colour of the hardback edition. It tries to be Anne Perry and Inspector Pitt, but not.
I usually don't like books set in the mid1880's, but this series got me hooked from the beginning. Enjoy the characters, don't mind if some are a bit flawed. As soon as the books are released on kindle I download immediately. Waiting for the next.
5.0 out of 5 starsA new dynamic with all the old favourites
Reviewed in Canada on July 14, 2020
As Charles Lenox grows his entourage of allies and colleagues, to say nothing of family, we are taken along on a ride well worth the price of admission. This story is an intriguing mystery set on the backdrop of Lenox's life as a politician and family man. Loved it!