A Burial at Sea (Charles Lenox Series #5)

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Charles Lenox, Member of Parliament, sets sail on a clandestine mission for the government.  When an officer is savagely murdered, however, Lenox is drawn toward his old profession, determined to capture another killer.

1873 is a perilous time in the relationship between France and England.  When a string of English spies is found dead on French soil, the threat of all-out war prompts government officials to ask Charles Lenox to visit...

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A Burial at Sea (Charles Lenox Series #5)

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Overview

Charles Lenox, Member of Parliament, sets sail on a clandestine mission for the government.  When an officer is savagely murdered, however, Lenox is drawn toward his old profession, determined to capture another killer.

1873 is a perilous time in the relationship between France and England.  When a string of English spies is found dead on French soil, the threat of all-out war prompts government officials to ask Charles Lenox to visit the newly-dug Suez Canal on a secret mission.

Once he is on board the Lucy, however, Lenox finds himself using not his new skills of diplomacy but his old ones: the ship’s second lieutenant is found dead on the voyage’s first night, his body cruelly abused. The ship’s captain begs the temporarily retired detective to join in the hunt for a criminal.  Lenox finds the trail, but in the claustrophobic atmosphere on board, where nobody can come or go and everyone is a suspect, he has to race against the next crime—and also hope he won’t be the victim.

At once a compulsive murder mystery, a spy story, and an intimate and joyful journey with the Victorian navy, this book shows that no matter how far Lenox strays from his old life, it will always come back to find him.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Agatha Christie meets Patrick O’Brian in Finch’s accomplished fifth whodunit set in Victorian England (after 2010’s A Stranger in Mayfair), the best in the series to date. Although aristocratic sleuth Charles Lenox has become a member of Parliament and is expecting his first child, his brother, Sir Edmund, a close adviser to Prime Minister Gladstone, taps Charles in March 1873 to undertake a delicate espionage mission to Egypt, where five British agents have been killed, apparently by the French. But soon after Charles’s ship sets sail, the captain calls on him to dust off his deductive skills when a crew member is murdered and left eviscerated on the deck. Charles is under pressure to solve the shocking crime quickly to limit its emotional aftershocks. While Finch may not be the first to set a murder mystery at sea, he perfectly integrates the ship’s routines and customs into the fair-play plot. (Nov.)
Library Journal
Detective-cum-spy Charles Lenox is off to Egypt in his fifth historical jaunt (A Stranger in Mayfair). Expect intrigue and seafaring tales in this Victorian adventure. [Library marketing.]
Kirkus Reviews
A 19th-century sea voyage to Egypt is the setting for murder. His brother asks retired sleuth Charles Lenox, M.P., to undertake a clandestine mission for the British government. Charles' wife is pregnant, but he cannot refuse the request. England's relationship with France is on dangerous ground, and the deaths of several British spies have only increased tensions. So Charles sails aboard the Lucy along with his brother's son Teddy, who's making his first voyage as a midshipman. In this time of peace, warships often carry out what the crew think of as make-work duties. But the ship's routine is scuttled when the ship's second lieutenant is found brutally murdered. Captain Martin, aware of Lenox's reputation, asks him to find the killer. Given the limited number of suspects, the task would seem easy, but Lenox finds it daunting. No sooner has he narrowed down the list to the ship's officers than Captain Martin is murdered and Lenox is fortunate to escape with his own life. The ship continues to Egypt, where Charles must accomplish his task as an undercover agent and put paid to the murder investigation before he can return to his pregnant wife. A welcome change of scene for Finch's clever protagonist (A Stranger in Mayfair, 2010, etc.). The descriptions of life aboard a ship in 1873 are especially entertaining.
Marilyn Stasio
…a rousing nautical adventure, set on an English ship awash with murders, storms and the threat of mutiny on its journey to Egypt…Finch's descriptions of life at sea are so fascinating it's a shame Lenox must bring this case to an end.
—The New York Times Book Review
From the Publisher
"Agatha Christie meets Patrick O'Brian in Finchs accomplished fifth whodunit set in Victorian England, the best in the series to date." —-Publishers Weekly Starred Review
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780312625085
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press
  • Publication date: 11/8/2011
  • Series: Charles Lenox Series , #5
  • Edition description: First Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 320
  • Product dimensions: 5.88 (w) x 8.32 (h) x 1.06 (d)

Meet the Author

Charles Finch is a graduate of Yale and Oxford. He is the author of the Charles Lenox mysteries, including The Fleet Street Murders, The September Society and A Stranger in Mayfair. 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. He lives in Oxford, England.

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Read an Excerpt

CHAPTER ONE

 

 

He gazed out at the sunfall from an open second-floor window, breathing deeply of the cool salt air, and felt it was the first calm moment he had known in days. Between the outfitting, the packing, the political conversations with his brother, and a succession of formal meals that had served as shipboard introductions to the officers of the Lucy, his week in Plymouth had been a daze of action and information.

Now, though, Charles Lenox could be still for a moment. As he looked out over the maze of thin streets that crossed the short path to the harbor, and then over the gray, calm water itself—smudged brown with half-a-dozen large ships and any number of small craft—he bent forward slightly over the hip-high window rail, hands in pockets. He was past forty now, forty-two, and his frame, always thin and strong, had started to fill out some at the waist. His trim brown hair, however, was still untouched by gray. On his face was a slight, careworn smile, matched by his tired, happy, and curious hazel eyes. He had been for much of his life a detective, more lately a member of Parliament for the district of Stirrington, and now for the first time, he would be something else: something very like a diplomat.

Or even a spy.

It had begun two months before, in early March. Lenox had been at home on Hampden Lane. This was the small street just off Grosvenor Square, lined with pleasant houses and innocuous shops—a bookseller, a tobacconist—where he had lived nearly his whole adult life. For much of that time his best friend had lived next door to him, a widow named Lady Jane Grey whose family was also from Sussex: they had grown up riding together, fidgeting through church together: together. Just three years before, to his own confused and happy surprise, Lenox had realized how very much he loved her. It had taken some time to gather the courage to ask her to marry him. But he had. Now, in the winter of 1873, they were just getting used to the upside-down tumble their lives had taken. Their houses, side by side as they were, had been rebuilt to connect, and now they lived within a sprawling mishmash of rooms that matched their joined-up lives. They were a couple.

Lenox had been in his study that evening in March, making notes for a speech he hoped to give the following day in the House of Commons about India. There was a gentle snow outside the high windows near his desk, and the gaslights cast a dim and romantic light over the white, freshened streets.

There was a knock at the door.

Lenox put down his pen and flexed his sore hand, opening and closing it, as he waited for their butler, Kirk, to show the guest in.

“Sir Edmund Lenox,” Kirk announced, and to his delight Charles saw his older brother’s cheerful and ruddy face pop around the doorway.

“Ed!” he said, and stood. They clasped hands. “Come, sit by the fire—you must be nigh on frozen. Well, it’s been two weeks nearly, hasn’t it? You’re in the country too often for my taste, I tell you that frankly.”

Edmund smiled widely but he looked exhausted. “In fact I wasn’t at the house, so you can’t lay that charge against me,” he said. The house being the one they had grown up in together, Lenox House.

“No? But you said you were going to see Molly and the—”

The baronet waved a hand. “Security reasons, they say, but whatever it is we were at Lord Axmouth’s place in Kent, five of us, holed up with the admiralty, the chaps from the army, a rotating cast of ministers … with Gladstone.”

The prime minister. Charles furrowed his brow. “What can it have been about?”

In person Edmund Lenox looked very much like his younger brother, but he was perhaps less shrewd in the eyes, more open-faced. He served in Parliament out of a sense, not of ambition, but of duty, inherited from their father, and indeed preferred the country to London. Perhaps as a result he had a countryish air. He seemed heartier than his brother Charles.

This innocent, candid mien, however, concealed a more intelligent mind than one might immediately have suspected. It had been to Lenox’s great shock when he first learned, five or six years before, that Edmund wasn’t the stolid backbencher he had always appeared to be, but in fact a leading member of his party who had declined important posts again and again, preferring to work behind the scenes.

Now he surprised Charles again.

“You know something of my purview?” Edmund said.

“Something.” Lenox himself was still a backbencher, but could say without undue immodesty that he was a rising man; long hours of work had seen to that. “You advise the ministers, consult with the prime minister on occasion, find votes—that sort of thing.”

Edmund smiled again, an unhappy smile this time. “First of all, let me say that I come to ask a favor. I hope you’ll agree to do it.”

“With all my heart.”

“Not so quickly, for love’s sake, Charles.”

“Well?”

Edmund sighed and stood up from the armchair, staring for a moment at the low, crackling glow in the hearth. “Might I have a drink?” he asked.

“The usual?” Lenox stood and walked over to a small, square, lacquered table crowded with crystal decanters. He poured them each a glass of Scotch whisky. “Here you are.”

“There are other parts of my job, that I haven’t mentioned to you before,” said Edmund after a sip. “A role I play that you might call more—more secret.”

Lenox understood instantly, and felt well inside him some mixture of excitement, tension, surprise, and even a slight hurt that he hadn’t heard of this before. “Intelligence?” he said gravely.

“Yes.”

“What branch?”

Edmund considered the question. “You might call me an overseer, of sorts.”

“All of it, then.”

“Since the new prime minister came in, yes. I report to him. These weeks we have been—”

“You might have told me,” said Charles, his tone full of forced jocularity.

With comprehension in his eyes Edmund said, “I would have, believe me—I would have come to you first were I permitted to speak of it.”

“And why can you now? This favor?”

“Yes.”

“Well?”

“It’s France,” said Edmund. “We’re worried about France.”

“That doesn’t make sense. Everything has been cordial, hasn’t it? Uneasily so, I suppose, but—”

Edmund sat down. “Charles,” he said with a hard look, “will you go to Egypt for us?”

Taken aback, Charles returned his brother’s stare. “Why—I suppose I could,” he said at last. “If you needed me to.”

So that spark had burst into this conflagration; Lenox would set sail twelve hours from now aboard the Lucy, a corvette bound for the Suez.

A cool breeze fluttered the thin white curtains on either side of him. He felt his nerves shake slightly, his stomach tighten, as he contemplated the idea of leaving, of all his fresh responsibility. This Plymouth house—a cream-colored old Georgian in a row, let by the week or month to officers and their families—had in just two weeks come to feel almost like home, and he realized with a feeling of surprise that he would be sorry to leave it, even though he had looked forward to nothing else for two months but his voyage. Then he understood that it wasn’t the house he would miss, but the home that his wife had made of it.

He heard the door open downstairs.

“Charles?” a voice rang from the bottom of the stairs. It was Lady Jane.

Before he answered he hesitated for a brief moment and looked out again at Plymouth Harbor, under its falling golden sun, savoring the idea, every boy’s dream, of being out at sea.

“Up here!” he cried then. “Let me give you a hand.”

But she was clambering up the stairs. “Nonsense! I’m already halfway there.”

She came in, pink-faced, dark-haired, smallish, pretty in a rather plain way, dressed all in blue and gray—and holding her belly, which, though her dress hid it, had begun to round out.

For after hesitation and dispute, something wonderful had happened to them, that daily miracle of the world that nevertheless always manages to catch us off guard, no matter our planning, no matter our dreams, no matter our circumstances: she was pregnant.

 

Copyright © 2011 by Charles Finch

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 21 )
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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 21 Customer Reviews
  • Posted October 11, 2011

    love this author!

    have to respond to the 1 star...why give 1 star to just be snarky? Love this author-if you like a true mystery, with Victorian atmosphere (backed by an author who knows the Victorian period) this is the author for you. Haven't read the book yet, of course, but have neer been disappointed by him. I'll buy the hardbacked copy of this book the day it comes out.

    6 out of 8 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 12, 2011

    Patrick O'Brian meets Anne Perry

    Charles Lenox undertakes a mission to Egypt and runs into murder and intrigue aboard ship and on shore. Set in England in the 1860s, this series is a good mix of history and mystery. Lovers of both should enjoy this 5th book.

    5 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 24, 2011

    One of the all-time best historical mystery writers.

    As a mystery buff who has read all of Charles Finch's books, I am so gratified by his sensitive character development, interesting plots, thorough research, and enthralling stories. At his young age, he will undoubtedly grow into one of the all-time great authors.

    5 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 17, 2011

    Favorite Author!!

    Charles Finch is one of my favorite authors!! If this book is like all of the others in the series, then it is sure to be an excellent read. Can't wait to read it!

    3 out of 7 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 25, 2011

    My favorite Lenox mystery yet

    I've read all of Finch's books and this in is my favorite. I do miss Graham and Jane, though.

    2 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted November 19, 2012

    Charles Finch's best one yet

    I have enjoyed all of Charles Finch's books about Charles Lenox. While this one is quite a departure from the previous books I found it to be the most entertaining one yet. Most of it takes place aboard a ship, and Finch obviously did his research to make certain he got the details right. He gives an absorbing feel of life aboard a sailing vessel, and made me feel part of the whole experience. That's what I look for in a good book, and Charles Finch delivered. A thoroughly enjoyable read.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 5, 2012

    My wife and I read every Charles Finch book as soon as it come o

    My wife and I read every Charles Finch book as soon as it come out. We love this series and this is one of the best. Great sailing ship/Royal Navy background for this murder mystery. If you love mystery stories based in the 1900's, you will love this. Lent it to a friend and he read it almost overnight (he's a Marine and loves the era of the old sailing ships).

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 31, 2012

    The whole series is wonderful!

    If one likes mysteries, especially Victorian, the Charles Lenox series will have you praying for more.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 16, 2011

    Enjoy it very much

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 6, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    A Burial at Sea by Charles Finch Set in 1873, in the middle of

    A Burial at Sea by Charles Finch

    Set in 1873, in the middle of Victorian England, this is the fifth installment of the murder mysteries that have Charles Lenox as the protagonist.

    Sir Edmund Lenox, Charles, brother sends Charles on a diplomatic/spying mission to Egypt - where the recently finished Suez Canal is probably the only reason keeping France from declaring an all out war against England.

    On his way to Egypt, aboard the Lucy, a murder occurs. The captain of the boat, Mr. Jacob Martin, asks Charles to use his prior detective skills to solve the mystery. It's soon evident that one of the officers on board is the culprit. Things can't get any worse, as the captain himself becomes the murderer's second victim. Mr. Lenox has to race to uncover the perpetrator of theses crimes - or risk becoming the next victim himself.

    A wonderful murder mystery, a spy story and an evocative journey into the Victorian era, this books is a wonderful and easy read. I read it in two days - wonderfully told from the third person point of view. A fun read....

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 1, 2013

    Great author

    I have all his books love them 1-1-2013

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 25, 2012

    Book

    Really good and very glow details. Indeed very good!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 31, 2011

    Hell Ll

    Its teribble!!!!!!!!!!!""""""""""""!!!!!!!!!!!""

    0 out of 16 people found this review helpful.

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    Posted December 6, 2011

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    Posted November 15, 2011

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