The Vanishing Man by Charles Finch

July 26, 2019 Book Reviews 11 ★★★★★

The Vanishing Man by Charles FinchThe Vanishing Man by Charles Finch
Series: Charles Lenox #0.2
Published by Minotaur Books on Feb. 19, 2019
Genres: Historical Mystery
Pages: 304
Format: eARC
Source: the publisher
Purchase: Amazon | Book Depository | Barnes & Noble | Audible
Goodreads
five-stars
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.

Review

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.

 

 

five-stars

About 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, was published in January 2014. He has written for The New York Times and Slate and regularly reviews books for The Chicago Tribune and USA Today. He lives in England.

11 Responses to “The Vanishing Man by Charles Finch”

    • Lark_Bookwyrm

      It’s one of the best historical mystery series I’ve read. The writing is excellent, and his plotting is meticulous.

  1. Nicole

    This sounds like a lot of fun! I’ll have to add the series to my TBR; I’ve been wanting to read a good historical mystery lately. I’m not sure if the prequel novels or the first published book would be a better place to start, though.
    Nicole recently posted…Series I’m Reading (mid 2019 review)My Profile

    • Lark_Bookwyrm

      This series is really, really good… and consistently so, which is always a plus. As for where to start… I’m inclined to suggest the first published book, unless you really hate reading out of chronological order. A Beautiful Blue Death sets up the character and some of his relationships, at a time in his life when he is more confident in his abilities. Personally, I think that the prequels read better for already knowing the main character and where he is headed.

    • Lark_Bookwyrm

      It’s been interesting to see the younger versions of some of the characters, and watch Lenox developing his skills and contacts. There are some wonderful and moving passages in this book about family relationships, too.

  2. Lark

    This is another series I’m way behind in, but I did really enjoy A Beautiful Blue Death. Guess I need to get cracking on the rest. 🙂

    • Lark_Bookwyrm

      I still have about 3 from the middle of the series to read. I’m sort of hoarding them… I started reading the series when I was offered an ARC of #7, and fell in love with the books. I’ve read 1-3, 7-10, and the first two prequels, but not 4-6 yet.