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The September Society (Charles Lenox Series #2)

The September Society (Charles Lenox Series #2)

4.1 51
by Charles Finch

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In the small hours of the morning one fall day in 1866, a frantic widow visits detective Charles Lenox. Lady Annabelle's problem is simple: her beloved son, George, has vanished from his room at Oxford. When Lenox visits his alma mater to investigate he discovers a series of bizarre clues, including a murdered cat and a card cryptically referring to "The


In the small hours of the morning one fall day in 1866, a frantic widow visits detective Charles Lenox. Lady Annabelle's problem is simple: her beloved son, George, has vanished from his room at Oxford. When Lenox visits his alma mater to investigate he discovers a series of bizarre clues, including a murdered cat and a card cryptically referring to "The September Society." Then, just as Lenox realizes that the case may be deeper than it appears, a student dies, the victim of foul play.

What could the September Society have to do with it? What specter, returned from the past, is haunting gentle Oxford? Lenox, with the support of his devoted friends in London's upper crust, must race to discover the truth before it comes searching for him, and dangerously close to home.

Editorial Reviews

author of the New York Times bestselling The Whisk David Liss
The best sort of historical mystery—clever, charming, full of period detail, and a delight to read.
Victorian gentleman sleuth Charles Lenox returns in this successor to 2007's triumphant A Beautiful Blue Death. A dead cat and a mysterious note are harbingers of worse things to come in this spiffy whodunit set in 1866 London and Oxford. Lenox and his trusted manservant, Graham, turn up a discomfiting number of suspects, but with some keen detective work, the real culprit is exposed. An excellent, civilized adventure.
Library Journal

When Oxford student George Payson goes missing, his mother asks Charles Lennox to find him. All avenues of investigation point to foul play, and then Payson's garroted body is found in the Christ Church Meadow. Wealthy, intelligent, Oxford-educated, and a detective of some repute, Charles seeks to determine what role the little-known student club, the September Society, might have played in Payson's death and what lies behind the threats against Payson's friends and now Lennox's beloved Lady Jane Grey. In Finch's second Victorian mystery (after A Beautiful Blue Death), Lennox and his diverse acquaintences are developing into a cohesive team of detectives, much like the sleuths in the mysteries of Will Thomas and Caleb Carr. Finch, a superb hand at plotting, gives nothing away, and even the most astute reader will be guessing to the end. Another triumph; highly recommended for all collections.

—Jo Ann Vicarel
School Library Journal

Adult/High School- Charles Lenox, Victorian private detective, has an opportunity to revisit his university days when he gets a case involving a missing second-year student at Lincoln College, Oxford. George Payson has vanished, leaving only an odd collection of items in the sitting room of his quarters: a frayed piece of string, half a tomato, a fountain pen, and a card labeled "The September Society." Oh, yes, and a dead cat. Lenox re-explores his old haunts as he pieces together the clues, which eventually lead him back to London and the headquarters of the mysterious society. Period details are present but not oppressive in this carefully plotted story. Lenox is an appealing character, and details of his personal life are scattered throughout, giving a rounded picture of the man while not hampering the detective portion of the story. Good writing, good plotting, an intriguing setting, and agreeable characters make this a solid choice for older teens.-Sarah Flowers, Santa Clara County Library, CA

From the Publisher
"Even the most astute [listener] will be guessing to the end. Another triumph." ---Library Journal Starred Review

Product Details

St. Martin's Press
Publication date:
Charles Lenox Series , #2
Edition description:
First Edition
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.50(w) x 8.30(h) x 0.83(d)

Read an Excerpt


The first murders were committed nineteen years before the second, on a dry and unremarkable day along the Sutlej Frontier in Punjab.

It was beastly hot weather, as Juniper remarked to Captain Lysander out on the veranda of the officers’ mess, fit for little more than an odd gin and tonic, perhaps the lazy composition of a letter home. The flies, maddening creatures that had never learned to take no for an answer, crowded around the nets that blocked the porch, searching for a way in. "I would trade a hand to be back in London," Lysander said to Juniper after a long pause. "At least they have the decency to bar these flies from coming into the city there."

The battalion was on edge, because a recent retaliatory raid on a local village had turned bloody. Suspicion and rumor abounded. The officers, with a few exceptions, had long ceased to attend to their charges’ morale. Though all the Englishmen in Punjab lived well, with villas and servants to themselves, every one of them at that uneasy moment would have made the trade Lysander proposed.

"Well," said Juniper. "I may go look around and have a bit of a shoot with Jim."

"Were you planning that?"

"Oh, yes."

"Where do you reckon you’ll go?"

"That little patch of scrub east of here. Doubt we’ll find anything worth a bullet. Maybe a darkie or two, looking for trouble."

Lysander smiled grimly. "Past that little grove of banyan trees, then?"

"Curious today, aren’t you?"

In another place this might have sounded rude, but being white was a great equalizer in that country, and these men were too intimate to maintain entirely the ceremonies of respect and rank that defined the British.

"Always on the lookout for a decent bit of shooting, you know," responded Lysander, sipping his gin and tonic. He was a trim, forceful, savvy-looking man. "D’you know why they give us so much tonic, young pup?"

"No. Why?"

"Has quinine in it. Prevents malaria."

"I suppose I did know that, actually."

"They must’ve told you in training."

"Yes," said Juniper, nodding agreeably.

"Just past that grove of banyan trees, then?" There was a slight, casual persistence in Lysander’s voice. "Ever shot anything edible there?"

"Not to speak of. There are a few birds, not much on the ground. It’s poor sport."

"So’s this whole country."

"Any more inspirational speech before I leave?"

"On your way."

Juniper stood up. "I’m sure I’ll see you for cocktails."

But he wouldn’t, and the other man knew it.

When Juniper had gone out of sight, Lysander leapt out of his chair and walked briskly up a small dirt path that led from the mess to his villa. The captain’s batman, his assistant and a lance corporal, was on the porch, whittling an Indian charm to send back to his mother. He had been working on it for weeks.

"Best go do it now," Lysander said. "He’s off with Juniper. Both of them, would you? They’re hunting, out east, in that scrub."

"Yes, sir," said the batman, standing. Here rank still meant something.

"Do your best to make it look like an accident, obviously."

"Yes, sir."

Lysander paused. "By the way, that treasure?"

"Yes, sir?"

"There’s talk of a society. Don’t know what it’s to be called yet, and it will be for officers alone."


"But if you do right by us, we’ll do right by you."

"Thank you, sir."

The batman ran off, and Lysander called to one of the servants, a fair Indian lad, swathed in brilliant pink and pale blue that contrasted with the dull beige of the landscape and the military man’s uniform. The boy with some sullenness came forward.

"That box," Lysander barked. "Bring it to me. And it’s worth your life to open it before it gets here."

A moment later he was holding the box, and, when certain he was alone, he opened it to reveal a massive, pristine, and beautiful sapphire.

As he snapped the box shut and had it taken away, Juniper and his friend Jim emerged from the latter’s house, guns broken over their arms, both wearing beige, broad-brimmed hats to keep the dying sun off of their necks and faces. They had a bantering style of conversation that sounded as if it had been picked up from a thousand other conversations before. It was clear how much closer they were than Juniper and Lysander.

"A farthing says you’ll never eat what you shoot," Juniper said with a laugh.

"A farthing? I’ve played higher stakes than that with women."

"That serving girl of mine you like, then."

"What do I have to eat?"

"First thing either of us shoots."

"What if it’s the dirt?"

"Bet’s a bet."

"How much dirt would I have to eat?"

"Nice haunch of it."

"Farthing for the first meat, let’s go back to that. Don’t shoot anything too horrible."

"I’m insulted you’d suggest it."

It was a little more than a mile outside of camp, away from Lahore—and that city’s dangers, which these two men knew all too well—that they found a decent patch of land. It had a few bushes and trees scattered around it. They didn’t have a dog, but Juniper shot into the undergrowth and drove a few birds out into the open, where the two men had a clear look at them.

They observed the birds fluttering, partially obscured, soon to be dead. Ruminatively, Juniper said, "What do you miss most? About England?"

His interlocutor thought it over. "I wish I hadn’t left it so badly with my family, you know. I miss them."

"I do, too."

"Only six months, I suppose."

Then both men heard a scratching emerge from the under-growth that lay off to their side.

A shot. The fall of a body. Another shot. The fall of a body. A lone figure, Lysander’s batman, rose from his hidden spot and ran off full bore back west. And then a long, long silence, in the empty land that stretched blank as far as the eye could see, in every direction, forty-five hundred miles away from Piccadilly Circus.

Excerpted from The September Society by Charles Finch

Copyright © 2008 by Charles Finch

Published in 2008 by St. Martin’s Minotaur

All rights reserved. This work is protected under copyright laws and reproduction is strictly prohibited. Permission to reproduce the material in any manner or medium must be secured from the Publisher

Meet the Author

Charles Finch is the Agatha Award-nominated author of the acclaimed Charles Lenox mystery series.

James Langton trained as an actor at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama. An AudioFile Earphones Award winner, he has performed many voice-overs and narrated numerous audiobooks. James was born in York, England, and is now based in New York City.

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The September Society (Charles Lenox Series #2) 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 51 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is the second mystery in the Charles Lenox series. Lenox is a wealthy Victorian who entertains himself partly by making scholarly studies of ancient Rome, but also (more to the point for the series) serving as a private detective. When another wealthy aristrocrat comes to him and announces that her son has disappeared from Oxford, Lenox offers his services. The books (I have read the first two) are easy reads without a lot of depth of character. To a certain extent, they are educational in that the author tries to capture what life was like for the upper class during the period and often throws in some interesting facts. This book is particularly strong with regard to its descriptions of life at Oxford. Clues are nicely presented (not hidden so that only later do you realize a seemingly incidental comment was an important clue) and reviewed throughout. We do not have what is often the case in mysteries where one or more characters (rather foolishly) withhold important information from others. I would give the first mystery in the series four stars, demeriting it mostly because of a lack of depth. I downgraded this book one further star in that I found the final resolution of what happened rather implausible. Despite the so so rating, I plan to read more books in the series in that they make for comfortable, educational reads when one is looking for something a bit more light weight.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This second book in the series doesn't disappoint. The setting development in London and Oxford University are vivid and absorbing. The plot is complex and twists and turns throughout the story. The reader sees the addition of an additional character, a young man whose only hobby has so far been the wasting of his life. But, Lenox starts by humoring the lad and allowing him to learn at his feet -- a decision that turns out to be lifesaving! The reader watches the tender development of the very proper love between Lenox and Lady Jane. This book is engaging, written with wit, and will leave the reader with a satisfied smile on their face at the end. Worthy of being given as a gift.
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Good plot, likable characters, not too much violence. This is a easy read. Good for the plane or beach. I'm sure I'll read the next ones in the series.
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A very good mystery. You won't want to put this book down till you are at the end. I have really enjoyed all of the Charles Lenox Series.
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WTR More than 1 year ago
Excellent, recommend read #1 in series first. Wonderful handling of the period, ibvious excellent research. Great series.
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