Saturday, July 28, 2007

BOOK REVIEW: A Beautiful Blue Death by Charles Finch

Victorian gentleman Charles Lenox recently assisted Scotland Yard in solving the Isabel Lewes case; a simple case the Yard should have easily solved despite their appalling lack of imagination. Now, on a bitterly cold late afternoon, all Lenox wants to do is sit in his library and enjoy the bliss of a warm fire. So when he receives an urgent message from Lady Jan Grey, his closest friend and next door neighbour, he ventures forth to brave the cold, despite his inadequate boots.

Lady Grey’s former servant, Prue Smith, has apparently committed suicide-by-poisoning at the home of her new employer George Barnard, the current director of the Royal Mint. At her request, Lenox visits the crime scene and is quickly convinced that Prue’s death is murder, despite assurances from the Yard and Barnard that it is suicide. Thomas McConnell, a surgeon and close associate of Lenox, determines the cause of death to be a rare poison called bella indigo (beautiful blue). The Yard does not welcome Lenox’s assistance which leaves him little access to the Barnard household, forcing him to investigate discreetly and utilize the services of Graham, his butler and friend. It is not until a second death occurs that Lenox begins to piece together the puzzling crime.

A Beautiful Blue Death is Charles Finch’s delightful debut novel. The pairing of Lenox and Graham brings to mind the famous pairing of Lord Peter Wimsey and his valet Bunter. Like Wimsey and Bunter, Lenox and Graham share more than a purely professional relationship. Despite the friendship and amity they feel for each other, the barriers of class keep them separated. “This matter of asking Graham for help on a case was part of that unusual bond – a result of trust in Graham as a man, first of all, and in his competence too. In the end, each man relied on their deep mutual loyalty, which would be hard for anyone to test.”

What elevates A Beautiful Blue Death from just another historical mystery is the relationships Lenox has with the people around him; with Lady Jane, his brother Edmund and Graham. While the central mystery is fascinating, what captivates readers is the exploration Lenox’s relationship with Lady Jane and the window it provides into the life of a gentleman of leisure. Their habit of taking their daily tea illustrates the depth of their relationship, unusual for a time when the intersection of men and women’s lives was quite minimal. It is the man these relationships illuminate which will draw readers to future volumes about Charles Lenox.


ISBN10: 0312359772
ISBN13: 9780312359775

Hardcover
320 Pages
Publisher: St. Martin's Minotaur
Publication Date: June 26, 2007
Author Website: www.charles-finch.com


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2 comments:

jenclair said...

Another one for the list!

Charles Finch said...

Thanks so much for such a thoughtful and perceptive review!