A Stranger in Mayfair (Charles Lenox Series #4)

( 41 )

Overview

Returning from a continental honeymoon with his new wife, Lady Jane, Lenox is asked by a colleague in Parliament to consult in the murder of a footman, bludgeoned to death with a brick. His investigation uncovers some unsettling facts about the family he served and a strange, second identity that the footman himself cultivated.

Going into the boxing clubs and public houses, the Mayfair mansions and servants' quarters of Victorian London, Lenox gradually realizes that an old ...

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A Stranger in Mayfair (Charles Lenox Series #4)

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Overview

Returning from a continental honeymoon with his new wife, Lady Jane, Lenox is asked by a colleague in Parliament to consult in the murder of a footman, bludgeoned to death with a brick. His investigation uncovers some unsettling facts about the family he served and a strange, second identity that the footman himself cultivated.

Going into the boxing clubs and public houses, the Mayfair mansions and servants' quarters of Victorian London, Lenox gradually realizes that an old friend may be implicated in the footman's death. Soon a suspect is arrested, but Lenox has his doubts. Desperately trying to balance the opening of Parliament and what he feels sure is a dark secret surrounding the murder, he soon discovers that the killer is someone seemingly beyond suspicion, and may be prepared to spill blood again—even a detective's.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Set in 1860s London, Finch's middling fourth mystery featuring gentleman detective Charles Lenox (after 2009's The Fleet Street Murders) finds Lenox newly married to his longtime friend, Lady Jane Grey, and newly elected to Parliament. When Ludovic Starling, a slight acquaintance, asks Lenox to look into the bludgeoning murder of his footman, Frederick Clarke, Lenox, who wonders why Starling hasn't called in Scotland Yard, at first declines. In the end, despite the demands of his new vocation, Lenox agrees to help. The investigator, who's troubled to learn that Starling has been less than forthright with him, can't accept the police theory that a rival servant killed Clarke. Finch equips Lenox with his own Bunter in the person of a former butler turned political secretary, but the pair come across as weak, warmed-over versions of the golden age Dorothy Sayers originals. Portentous chapter endings undermine the otherwise solid prose. (Nov.)
From the Publisher
"With a keen eye for period detail, Finch believably portrays his Victorian sleuth skillfully managing life's demands. . . . Readers of Anne Perry should be snatching up Finch's books and clamoring for more." —-Library Journal Starred Review
Library Journal
In his fourth outing (after The Fleet Street Murders), Charles Lenox is asked to investigate the murder of a young footman, bludgeoned to death in the alley beside the house where he works. Lenox, busily preparing to begin his career in Parliament, hands the case to his young assistant, Lord Darlington. But circumstances keep dragging Lenox into the investigation and danger. VERDICT With a keen eye for period detail, Finch believably portrays his Victorian sleuth skillfully managing life's demands as he learns the art of political maneuvering, deals with the changes in his life brought on by his new marriage to Lady Grey, and satisfies his love of detection. Readers of Anne Perry should be snatching up Finch's books and clamoring for more.
Kirkus Reviews

Gentleman sleuth Charles Lenox, now married to his longtime friend and neighbor Lady Jane Grey, is about to take his seat in Parliament when the thrill of the chase distracts him.

When you combine two houses in matrimony, what do you do with the extra butler? Charles Lenox solves the problem by asking Graham, his butler, to be his secretary. Graham takes to the job and works with great efficiency to learn the parliamentary ropes. That's fortunate, because Charles is distracted by a murder at the home of Ludovic Starling, a fellow MP who hopes for a title and fears scandal. A young footman, the son of the Starlings' former housekeeper, has been killed outside their home. Finding it tricky to balance his parliamentary duties with a murder inquiry, Charles calls on his assistant John Dallington, son of the Duke of Marchmain, to take over some aspects of the investigation. But he wonders why Starling bothered to ask his help in the first place, and why his family has decided they no longer want it. At any rate, Charles refuses to be called off despite a cold shoulder from Scotland Yard. His curiosity once aroused, he must balance his job, his new marriage and his old love for detective work in order to solve the crime without wrecking his life.

Like Finch's earlier Victorian whodunits (The Fleet Street Murders, 2010, etc.), there's enough mystery combined with enough period and personal detail to keep fans happy.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780312616953
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press
  • Publication date: 7/19/2011
  • Series: Charles Lenox Series , #4
  • Edition description: First Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 336
  • Sales rank: 189,495
  • Product dimensions: 5.36 (w) x 8.28 (h) x 0.89 (d)

Meet the Author


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

Actor and musician James Langton, an AudioFile Earphones Award winner, has performed many voice-overs and narrated numerous audiobooks, including the international bestseller The Brotherhood of the Holy Shroud by Julia Navarro and The Demon's Lexicon by Sarah Rees Brennan.

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Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

For an Englishman it was a strange time to be in France. During much of the century a strong enmity had existed between the countries’ two governments, first because of Napoleon’s rather uncouth attempt to conquer Europe, then because of the lingering hostility born of that time. Now, though, the emperor’s nephew ruled France and had shown himself more liberal than his uncle—he had freed the press and the government from many of their previous restrictions—and an uneasy peace had sprung up across the Channel.

Even during the worst of times, just after Waterloo, for instance, there had been civility among open-minded French and English men, and now a man like Lenox, who loved so much about France—its coffee, its food, its wine, its architecture, its countryside, its literature—could visit the place with open admiration. There were republican rumblings in the capitol, however, and many Frenchmen, whose grandfathers had survived the revolution, felt fearful of what the next years might bring. Both Lenox and Lady Jane were happy that they had come when they did. Who knew what changes another shift in regime might bring? Who knew whether they would ever be able to visit again? And since that was the case, they had done all they could. Lady Jane had ordered dresses by the dozen (the seamstresses here being so infinitely preferable to English dressmakers—even at the height of the war fashion had been smuggled from one country to the other), while Lenox had spent his days closeted with a dozen different politicians, all of them sympathetic.

For he was in fact the newly minted Member of Parliament for Stirrington—had been elected not six months since. In that time he had barely entered the great chamber, however. He and Lady Jane had married in the Whitsun Recess, and now, in the Summer Recess, they were on their honeymoon. Paris was their final destination. They had spent three weeks traveling through the beautiful lake towns of the Alps, then another two in the French countryside.

In truth, as wonderful as it had been, both longed to be home. They missed London, missed their friends, and missed the little street off Grosvenor Square, Hampden Lane, where they had lived in side-by-side town houses for the better part of two decades. When they returned the two houses would be one: Over the past months an architect had supervised the demolition of the walls between them and seamlessly joined the buildings’ rooms to create one large house. It gave Lenox a good deal of private pleasure to contemplate this physical symbol of their union. For long years Jane had been his closest friend, and he could scarcely believe that he was lucky enough now to be married to her. Their births were close enough (hers slightly higher), and they had grown up together, but within London society she was one of the brightest stars, and while he was welcome everywhere and had a great variety of friends, he was viewed as idiosyncratic because of his career. Perhaps his marriage and his admission to Parliament would change that. He hated to admit it, but he wouldn’t mind. It had been hard to go it alone for so long in the face of everyone’s polite disapproval of his vocation.

That evening they were in their sitting room at the Crillon. She was at a small carved desk, writing her correspondence, and he was sitting in an armchair, reading. A cool summer breeze blew in through the window.

As if she were reading his mind, she looked up and said, “To think—in three days we’ll be home!”

“I can’t wait,” he said quietly and ardently.

“I’ve had a letter from Toto. She’s simply enormous, she says, and she and Thomas seem to be quite content together—what does she say? Here it is: Thomas and I sit together in the evenings. I knit and he reads, except when we both stop and talk about baby names and what room to give the child and, oh, everything. That sounds like Toto, doesn’t it? She writes just the way she speaks.”

Bess Telford’s facts had been mingled with rumors—Thomas McConnell was a doctor and occasionally did drink too much. A talented surgeon from a family of minor nobility in Scotland, he had come to London to practice in Harley Street and shortly thereafter, almost to his surprise, married one of the most admired young women in the city. Lady Victoria Phillips was born with beauty and immense fortune, and in personality she was entirely winning—effervescent, affectionate, gossiping, and slightly silly—but she was also young. While their marriage had been happy for three years, after that it had become first an acrimonious and then a terrible one, full of fights and cold silences. For a period of two years the couple barely spoke, and Toto spent much of her time at her parents’ house in the country. It was during this time that Thomas had begun to drink. Shamed by his wife’s family into selling his practice for a song to a Phillips cousin (it wasn’t considered fitting that the husband of Toto Phillips should be a professional man) his subsequent aimlessness had been cruel to his spirit. It was only within the last year or two that Toto and Thomas’s relationship had healed, and her pregnancy—which was why, eight months in, she could describe herself as enormous—was just the final bond they needed to restore them to happiness.

The trouble between them had been terrible to Lenox and Lady Jane. Thomas was Charles’s medical assistant when a case demanded it, and besides that a close friend, and as for Jane, Toto was a cousin of hers, and more like a niece than any of Jane’s actual nieces. The couple’s renewed closeness was a massive relief. Toto’s series of letters had been more and more happy with each one, as the birth of her baby came closer and closer.

“Where will she go for the birth?” asked Lenox.

“I believe they intend to stay in London.”

“I would have thought they might go to her father’s house.”

“In a way I’m glad they won’t. It’s always been too easy for Toto to flee to her family. Perhaps it’s a sign that she’s growing up.”

Lenox stood. “Shall we go to dinner soon?” he asked.

“I’d rather just stay in, if you don’t mind?”

He smiled. “Of course.”

The next morning was August 25, the day in France of the Feast of St. Louis. By more than a century’s tradition it was also the day the famous Salon opened at the Louvre palace, and the greatest artists of France and indeed the world displayed their year’s work. Lenox and Lady Jane went early, heard Napoleon III speak, and spent a long day looking around. People surrounded a painting by Manet and another by Whistler, and while Lenox admired these profoundly he soon found himself steering away from the crowds and toward the back rooms. Here he found in one dim corner a series of three extremely blurred, thick-painted canvases of sunrise, even less distinct than Manet’s. They seemed to be little more than evocations of figure and light. He stared at them for half an hour and, after consulting his new wife, bought one, the littlest one, which was blue and orange.

That evening they dined with Bess and Clara, and the next day they took a trip to the country and toured a small town with one of the politicians Lenox had met, who represented the district the town belonged to.

Then, just like that, it was all over. They had to wake very early the next morning to finish the packing their servants had begun and send their luggage off. By nine o’clock they were in a carriage on the way to Calais, and by noon they were aboard their ferry.

It was summer, but for some reason the Channel was extremely foggy, and as they stood on deck a wet, gray wind swirled around them.

“It seems like a dream, doesn’t it?” said Lady Jane. “I feel as if we left yesterday. But think of all those beautiful Swiss villages, Charles! Think of that hundred-foot waterfall!”

“We ate in that restaurant on the mountainside.”

“And our guide when we went up there!”

“It was a wonderful trip,” he said, leaning on the rail, “but I’m glad we’re going home. I’m ready to be married in London now.”

She laughed her clear, low laugh and said, “I am, too.”

He hadn’t been quite joking. He stole a glance at Jane, and his heart filled with happiness. For years he had thought himself a happy man—indeed had been happy and fortunate in his friendships, his work, his interests, his family—but now he understood that in that entire time something vital had been missing. It was she. This was a new kind of happiness. It wasn’t only the mawkish love of penny fiction, though that was there. It was also a feeling of deep security in the universe, which derived from the knowledge of an equal soul and spirit going through life together with you. From time to time he thought his heart would break, it made him so glad, and felt so precarious, so new, so unsure.

A mild, wispy rain started to fall when they were nearly across the water. Jane went inside, but Lenox said he thought he might stay out and look.

And he was lucky to have done so. At certain times in our lives we all feel grateful for one outworn idea or another, and now was one of those times for Lenox: As the fog cleared he saw much closer and bigger than he had expected the vast, pristine white face of the cliffs of Dover come into view. It made him feel he was home. Just like Jane did.

A STRANGER IN MAYFAIR Copyright © 2010 by Charles Finch

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 41 )
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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 41 Customer Reviews
  • Posted September 23, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    The newest Lenox Victorian mystery once again brings history and the culture of the era alive

    In Victorian England, Charles Lenox, son of and brother to a baronet, is euphoric to marry his beloved lifelong friend and new wife, Lady Jane Grey. Since they resided in adjoining houses, they hired an architect to create a larger abode out of the two smaller homes.

    His simple life becomes complicated when he responds to the doorbell. An acquaintance Ludwig Starling wants Charles, a private investigator who has solved cases that baffled the Yard, to uncover who killed his footman Frederick Clarke. Although Charles wants to be ready for the next session of parliament as he an active member, he cannot resist the lure of an investigation. Charles finds no dark documents when he inquires inside of his client's home. Lenox and Starling visit the alley where Clarke was murdered only to have someone stab Ludwig. The butler is arrested but Charles knows he is innocent even when the man confesses. What Charles does not know could kill him as the culprit overtly observes his every move in plain sight.

    The newest Lenox Victorian mystery (see the Fleet Street Murders) once again brings history and the culture of the era alive inside a strong whodunit. However, make no mistake the tale belongs to Lenox. The hero understands society's rules especially limitations, but ignores the prejudicial class aspects. For instance his occupation as a private investigator is considered as lowly trade by high society, but Lenox couldn't care less as sleuthing gives him special satisfaction. He loves his wife, but is also extremely grateful that in spite of her being a Lady and worried about his safety she encourages her forty years old husband to detect.

    Harriet Klausner

    3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted November 28, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Highly recommend this entire series

    The main characters' romance is fun to follow and unpredictible. The mysteries have lots of surprises, including the ending. I enjoy that this series gives some history of England as well, and this book included some of the origins of Parliament.

    I recommend starting with the first book in the series to fully understand all of the characters, but each book is enjoyable by itself.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 19, 2012

    Fourth in comfy mystery series

    This is the fourth book in the Charles Lenox mystery series. The books are set in London circa 1865. In this continuation of the series, Lenox returns from his honeymoon and begins his career as a member of Parliment. He cannot resist, however, the allure of investigating a new murder.

    Like previous books in the series, the writing is straightforward (but not to be mistaken for literature). The strength of the series is the cast of regulars who become familiar like family.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 8, 2011

    Mystery and history lovers will enjoy this one

    The book is set in London, in the 1860s. Charles Lenox - the detective in this series - stands for Parliament and solves a murder with an "Upstairs/Downstairs" twist. Readers will enjoy a beautifully detailed description of life in England at that time, along with a mystery that will keep them guessing.

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