Series: Charles Lenox #0.2
Published by Minotaur Books on Feb. 19, 2019
Genres: Historical Mystery
Source: the publisher
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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
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
From the critically acclaimed and USA Today bestselling author Charles Finch comes The Vanishing Man, the second in a prequel trilogy to his Charles Lenox Victorian series, in which the theft of an antique painting sends Detective Lenox on a hunt for a criminal mastermind.
London, 1853: Having earned some renown by solving a case that baffled Scotland Yard, young Charles Lenox is called upon by the Duke of Dorset, one of England’s most revered noblemen, for help. A painting of the Duke’s great-grandfather has been stolen from his private study. But the Duke’s concern is not for his ancestor’s portrait; hiding in plain sight nearby is another painting of infinitely more value, one that holds the key to one of the country’s most famous and best-kept secrets.
Dorset believes the thieves took the wrong painting and may return when they realize their error—and when his fears result in murder, Lenox must act quickly to unravel the mystery behind both paintings before tragedy can strike again. As the Dorset family closes ranks to protect its reputation, Lenox uncovers a dark secret that could expose them to unimaginable scandal—and reveals the existence of an artifact, priceless beyond measure, for which the family is willing to risk anything to keep hidden.
In this intricately plotted prequel to the Charles Lenox mysteries, the young detective risks both his potential career—and his reputation in high society—as he hunts for a criminal mastermind.
I received a review copy of this book from the publisher.
In his last book, The Woman in the Water (review), Charles Finch went back in time to his detective’s first major case. The Vanishing Man picks up three years later, still well before the events of A Beautiful Blue Death (review.) 26-year-old Charles Lenox is still learning his trade, the skills and lessons he needs to make a success of his singular (and most unsuitable) occupation. The parallel mysteries of The Vanishing Man take him to the heights of British society and the depths of London’s squalor, from the allure of Shakespeare—the man as well as his plays—to the madness of Bedlam’s inmates. Woven into this unlikely but compelling tapestry are the threads of friendship, family ties, and integrity that underpin the entire series, and indeed, Lenox’s whole life.
While I miss the friends and colleagues, the mature relationships of the later Lenox novels, these glimpses into his formative years as a detective are just as perceptively written and intricately crafted, and every bit as satisfying to read. Finch strikes the perfect balance between Lenox’s investigations and his personal and interior lives. As I have mentioned in other reviews, Lenox himself reminds me a bit of Ngaio Marsh’s Roderick Alleyn, or Lord Peter Wimsey in his more serious moments. Like both Alleyn and Wimsey, Charles Lenox is sensitive, perceptive, observant, and keenly sympathetic toward his fellow man regardless of class. And he, too, has the intuitive’s ability to put the pieces of a puzzle together, seeing past impossibility or surface likelihood to uncover the truth, however unexpected or surprising. He’s not a genius in the Sherlockian sense, but he possesses both persistence and insight. For all that his creator is an American, I now count Lenox among my favorite British detectives.
And Finch is an excellent writer, both stylistically and as creative and meticulous craftsman of plots. His mysteries fall within the traditional, even classic style. He “plays fair”; the reader generally has all the facts that the detective does, but is only sometimes privy to his thoughts and deductions. I highly recommend the Charles Lenox series to fans of Dorothy Sayers, Ngaio Marsh, and Josephine Tey as well as to lovers of historical mysteries.
This novel could be read as a standalone, but I recommend beginning either with the first prequel novel, The Woman in the Water, or with the first book in the series, A Beautiful Blue Death.
NOTE: Don’t let the #0.2 numbering mislead you. The Vanishing Man is a full-length novel, the second in a trilogy that serves as a prequel to the Charles Lenox series.