Series: Charles Lenox #9
Published by Minotaur Books on Nov. 10, 2015
Genres: British mystery, Historical Mystery
Source: the publisher through NetGalley
Also in this series: An Old Betrayal, The Laws of Murder, A Beautiful Blue Death, The September Society, The Fleet Street Murders, The Inheritance
Also by this author: An Old Betrayal, The Laws of Murder, A Beautiful Blue Death, The September Society, The Fleet Street Murders, The Inheritance
It's London in 1876, and the whole city is abuzz with the enigmatic disappearance of a famous foreign pianist. Lenox has an eye on the matter - as a partner in a now-thriving detective agency, he's a natural choice to investigate. Just when he's tempted to turn his focus to it entirely, however, his grieving brother asks him to come down to Sussex, and Lenox leaves the metropolis behind for the quieter country life of his boyhood. Or so he thinks. In fact, something strange is afoot in Markethouse: small thefts, books, blankets, animals, and more alarmingly a break-in at the house of a local insurance agent. As he and his brother to investigate this small accumulation of mysteries, Lenox realizes that something very strange and serious indeed may be happening, more than just local mischief. Soon, he's racing to solve two cases at once, one in London and one in the country, before either turns deadly. Blending Charles Finch's trademark wit, elegance, and depth of research, this new mystery, equal parts Jane Austen and Charles Dickens, may be the finest in the series.
I received a review copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley.
Gentleman detective Charles Lenox tackles two separate mysteries in Home By Nightfall, the ninth installment of the series. The detective agency he now runs with his former protege Lord John Dallington and the astute Miss Polly Strickland (The Laws of Murder) is finally on firm financial ground, but Charles has new worries: his brother Edmund is deeply depressed following the death of his wife Molly. When Edmund returns to the family home to take care of pressing estate business, Charles refuses to let him go alone; the agency will simply have to do without him for a little while. This means leaving a most perplexing case, the disappearance of a celebrated German pianist from his dressing room following a concert, in the hands of his colleagues. But as Charles discovers when he and Edmund arrive in Markethouse, mystery can be found even in a small market town.
I should know by now to expect the unexpected from Charles Finch. Both mysteries are well-plotted and surprisingly difficult to solve, but where another author would have tied them together, Finch allows each to play out independent of the other. As in The Fleet Street Murders, Lenox is torn between two duties, two competing interests–a circumstance very common in real life but rarely seen in mystery novels, at least when it comes to the main character. He balances the two as best he can, relying on the newspaper and telegrams from Dallington to keep him informed about the London case while he investigates the odd occurrences in Markethouse.
Charles is, as always, observant, compassionate, logical and imaginative, and those qualities allow him to solve not only the Markethouse mystery but the pianist’s disappearance. I was troubled by the ultimate resolution of the Markethouse conundrum, for it’s not entirely clear what justice is under the circumstances, let alone whether it has been served. Lenox seems to share my disquietude, and it’s a mark of Finch’s skill and courage as an author that he doesn’t shy away from the difficult questions in favor of neat, black-and-white endings.
I’m more impressed with this series with each book I read. They’re like beautifully rendered pen-and-ink drawings: precise, sensitive, and detailed, conveying thought and feeling delicately but with depth and maturity. There’s a slightly ascetic quality to them, as there is to Lenox himself – contained, controlled, but never cold or distant. Finch’s plots are rarely predictable and often fiendishly hard to figure out, though once you have the solution the pieces fit together like clockwork. His sensitivity toward his characters extends beyond Lenox to all the characters, and he never allows any of them to become static; major life changes, such as Lenox’s marriage and his entry into and eventual departure from Parliament, occur in the lives of his secondary characters as well. And always, the historical details are impeccably researched. In short, this is a series well worth reading.
Reading this book contributed to these challenges:
- Cruisin' Thru the Cozies 2015