From the Publisher
“Superb . . . Boasting one of Finch's tightest and trickiest plots, this installment further establishes Lenox as a worthy heir to the aristocratic mantle of Lord Peter Wimsey.” Publishers Weekly (starred)
“The murder mystery that Finch weaves keeps readers guessing.” Mary Foster, The Associated Press on A Burial at Sea
“Finch vividly brings 1860s London to life [and] effortlessly inhabits his compassionate hero.” USA Today on A Stranger in Mayfair
“Beguiling. . . . Character is very much at the core of these whodunits.” Marilyn Stasio, New York Times Book Review on The Fleet Street Murders
Set in 1874, Finch’s superb sixth mystery (after 2011’s A Burial at Sea) finds former private investigator Charles Lenox now an influential member of Parliament. Lenox accepts the honor of giving the opening speech for the new parliamentary session, which could be the prologue to further government advancement. To prepare, he accepts his uncle’s invitation to visit the uncle’s estate in the village of Plumbley, which has been afflicted by bizarre acts of vandalism: someone drew a picture of a man hanging from a noose on the doors of two local merchants, and the Roman numeral for 22 was painted on the church door. The stabbing murder of a 19-year-old young man raises the ante. Lenox welcomes the chance to resume detecting, “his truest vocation.” Boasting one of Finch’s tightest and trickiest plots, this installment further establishes Lenox as a worthy heir to the aristocratic mantle of Lord Peter Wimsey. Agents: Kari Stuart and Jennifer Joel, ICM. (Nov.)
Away from London this time, Victorian sleuth Charles Lenox finds a strange evil surging through the normally placid village of Plumley. Protégé John Dallington helps out in the series's sixth title (after A Burial at Sea).
A member of Parliament prefers investigating over speechifying. Even though he's still called upon for advice by his protégé John Dallington, Charles Lenox has long since given up his practice as an investigator. A newborn daughter and a request from his party to give the opening speech at a Parliamentary session carry him even further away from his former career. So would an invitation from his uncle Frederick Ponsonby to bring his family for a visit to his lovely estate in Plumbley, Somerset--if it weren't sharpened by a hint of mysterious vandalism. Deciding that it just may be the perfect place for the peace and quiet he needs to write his speech, Charles repairs with his wife, Jane, their infant, Sophie, and her nursemaid, the formidable Miss Taylor, to Plumbley, where Charles looks more closely into several cases of apparently senseless property damage. The case takes on a more serious turn when a young police constable is found stabbed to death. The locals are suspicious of Capt. Musgrave, a retired naval officer who married a local girl and moved to the village. His wife is rarely seen, and most of his neighbors are convinced that he's mistreating her. Charles has the help of Dallington, who's staying with them in disgrace after a drunken spree. Then, Freddie is kidnapped, and Charles must do everything possible to solve the crime and rescue his beloved uncle. The sixth in Finch's steadily improving series (A Burial at Sea, 2011, etc.) develops the congenial continuing characters further while providing quite a decent mystery.
Read an Excerpt
From Chapter One:
Lady Jane reached the bottom of the stairs. She was a pretty woman, in rather a plain way, dark-haired and at the moment pale, wearing a gray dress with a pink ribbon at the waist. Above all the impression she left on people was of goodness—or perhaps that was the impression she left primarily on Lenox, because he knew her so well, and therefore knew that quality in her. For many long years they had been dear friends, living side by side on Hampden Lane; now, still to his great surprise, they were man and wife. They had married four years before.
Better still, to add to his great happiness and evergreen surprise, at long last they had received a blessing that made him stop and smile to himself at random moments throughout every day, as he just had in his study, a blessing that never failed to lift his spirits above the intransigent tedium of politics: a daughter, Sophie.
She had been theirs for three months, and every day her personality developed in new, startling, wonderful directions. Almost every hour he snuck away from his work to glimpse her, sleeping or better yet awake. Granted, she didn’t do much—she was no great hand at arithmetic, as Lady Jane would joke, seldom said anything witty, would prove useless aboard a horse—but he found even her minutest motions enchanting. Babies had always seemed much of a muchness to him, but how wrong he had been! When she wriggled an inch to the left he found himself holding his breath with excitement.
After Jane had gone downstairs to arrange his lunch with the butler and the cook, Lenox remained in the hall, where he opened his letter. It was from his uncle Frederick, a relation of Lenox’s late mother.
Please consider this a formal invitation to come down for a week or two, with Jane of course and the new Lenox; I very much want to meet her. The garden is in fine shape, and then, Fripp is very anxious to have you for the cricket, which takes place Saturday week. I haven’t seen you in more than a year, you know.
Yours with affection,
Postscript: To sweeten the pot, shall I mention that in town, recently, there have been a series of strange vandalisms? The police cannot make head or tail of them and so everyone is in great stir. Perhaps you might lend a hand.
Lenox smiled. He was fond of his uncle, an eccentric man, retiring and very devoted to his small, ancient country house, which lay just by a village. Since the age of four or five Lenox had gone there once a year, usually for a fortnight, though it was true that the stretches between visits had gotten longer more recently, as life had grown busier. Still, there was no way he could leave London just at this moment, with so many political matters hanging in the balance. He tucked the note into his jacket pocket and turned back to his study.
Copyright © 2012 by Charles Finch