The Last Passenger by Charles Finch

February 27, 2020 Book Reviews 2 ★★★★★

The Last Passenger by Charles FinchThe Last Passenger by Charles Finch
Series: Charles Lenox #0.3
Published by Minotaur Books on Feb. 18, 2020
Genres: British mystery, Historical Mystery
Pages: 304
Format: eARC
Source: the publisher
Purchase: Amazon | Bookshop | Barnes & Noble | Audible
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Also in this series: An Old Betrayal, The Laws of Murder, A Beautiful Blue Death, The September Society, The Fleet Street Murders, Home By Nightfall, The Inheritance, The Woman in the Water, Gone Before Christmas, The Vanishing Man, An Extravagant Death
Also by this author: An Old Betrayal, The Laws of Murder, A Beautiful Blue Death, The September Society, The Fleet Street Murders, Home By Nightfall, The Inheritance, The Woman in the Water, Gone Before Christmas, The Vanishing Man, An Extravagant Death

From bestselling author Charles Finch comes the third and final in a prequel trilogy to his lauded Charles Lenox series.

London, 1855: A young and eager Charles Lenox faces his toughest case yet: a murder without a single clue. Slumped in a first-class car at Paddington Station is the body of a young, handsome gentleman. He has no luggage, empty pockets, and no sign of violence upon his person - yet Lenox knows instantly that it's not a natural death.

Pursuing the investigation against the wishes of Scotland Yard, the detective encounters every obstacle London in 1855 has to offer, from obstinate royalty to class prejudice to the intense grief of his closest friend. Written in Charles Finch's unmistakably warm, witty, and winning voice, The Last Passenger is a cunning and deeply satisfying conclusion to the journey begun in The Woman in the Water and The Vanishing Man.

I received a review copy of this book from the publisher.


The Last Passenger is the third and last of the Charles Lenox prequels, and it finishes up the trilogy in style. In each of the prequel novels, Lenox has been progressively learning his craft and honing his skills. In this book, you can also see much of his emotional development, as the young, eager Lenox grows toward the more reserved, more thoughtful, more compassionate, and more dedicated man of the chronologically later books. The seeds have been there all along, of course. Lenox clearly has a flair for investigation, but the twists and turns of this case — and the mistakes he makes along the way — offer several valuable lessons for the young detective. Various experiences in his social and personal life also affect his personality and outlook.

The mystery itself is, as I’ve come to expect from Charles Finch, skillfully plotted and difficult to figure out — deceptively so, in this case, since both the police and Lenox believe they have solved it at various points, only to discover they were mistaken.

The case takes place not long before the American Civil War, and the conflict between abolitionists and supporters of slavery is a thread running through much of the book. Having myself been raised in the Society of Friends, I enjoyed the brief appearance and mention of several fictional Quakers. And I was intrigued by the character of a former enslaved man who plays a secondary or tertiary role in the story. I also enjoyed spending time with some of the recurring characters from the main series: Charles’s brother Edward and his family, and his friend Lady Jane, as well as her husband, Lord Deere.

Finch’s prose is always a joy to read: precise and reserved, yet never cold; at times quietly poignant, even lyrical, like a finely-drawn ink-and-watercolor illustration. The Last Passenger is no exception, although here he employs a tactic of occasionally skipping scenes and filling the reader in through the main character’s thoughts or conversation. While it worked well in most instances, there were a few instances where I would really have liked to “see” the scene as it transpired. Nonetheless, the book is very well written, and has left me wanting more. There are a few books in the middle of the Charles Lenox series that I’ve been hoarding for a rainy day, but I think I may simply start at the beginning of the main series and (re)read them all straight through.


About Charles Finch

Author photo: Charles Finch

Charles Finch is a graduate of Yale and Oxford. He is the author of the Charles Lenox mysteries. His first novel, A Beautiful Blue Death, was nominated for an Agatha Award and was named one of Library Journal’s Best Books of 2007, one of only five mystery novels on the list. His first contemporary novel, The Last Enchantments, about expatriate life in Oxford, was published in January 2014. His essays have appeared in a number of publications, and he reviews books for The New York Times, The Chicago Tribune, and USA Today. Finch has lived in America, England, and France, and is now back in Chicago.

Reading this book contributed to these challenges:

  • COYER with Friends (Winter 2019-2020)
  • POPSUGAR Reading Challenge 2020

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