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A Beautiful Blue Death

March 31, 2009

A Beautiful Blue Death
Charles Finch

A lovely Victorian murder mystery. Charles Lennox is a gentleman, who solves mysteries as a hobby or a courtesy, an avocation, not a profession. His lifelong friend, Lady Jane, asks his help in solving a murder mystery. Setting aside his cozy plans for tea and a good book on a winter’s night, Charles Lennox begins to investigate. A servant girl who used to work for Lady Jane has been found dead. Lady Jane doesn’t believe it’s a suicide. For one thing, young Pru Smith had seemed happy- far too happy to kill herself. For another thing- she had been killed by extremely expensive poison- bella indigo deadly, but useful in its inert form for fertilizing plants.
Lennox comes to Lady Jane’s aid, untangling an array of suspects, alibis, and the vagaries of 19th century finance in high society London. Finch has an ear for Victorian prose in this tale’s many twists. Trivia about nascent forensic science and London’s social structure and customs of the time add immersive historical detail
As he works to solve this mystery, Lennox keeps trying to plan journeys to far-flung places, poring over maps, only to be forced to cancel his travel plans as the mystery grows more complex. Side mentions of other cases and other canceled trips add whimsy to the narrative.
It’s hard to believe this is a debut novel. It’s beautifully atmospheric, in prose and setting. Finch juggles plot threads deftly. Lennox’s friendships stretch beyond the scope of this novel in warm detail, especially his gentle friendship with Lady Jane. Lennox works peacefully with Scotland Yard, though the sneering Inspector Exeter tries his patience, jockeying for power. Such a strong cast of characters, and a deft hand for plot makes this a particularly strong debut, and hopefully the start of an altogether decent historical series.

One Comment leave one →
  1. Christina Bost Seaton permalink
    March 31, 2009 10:10 pm

    Sounds really interesting, E! I’ll check it out! I love historical fiction.

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