A Beautiful Blue Death (Charles Lenox Series #1)

A Beautiful Blue Death (Charles Lenox Series #1)

by Charles Finch

Paperback(First Edition)

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780312386078
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Publication date: 07/22/2008
Series: Charles Lenox Series , #1
Edition description: First Edition
Pages: 336
Sales rank: 217,164
Product dimensions: 5.40(w) x 8.20(h) x 1.00(d)

About the Author

Charles Finch is the author of the Charles Lenox mysteries, including The Inheritance and A Beautiful Blue Death, which was nominated for an Agatha Award and was named one of Library Journal's Best Books of 2007. He is a graduate of Yale and Oxford, and lives in Chicago.

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.

Read an Excerpt

A Beautiful Blue Death (Chapter One)

The fateful note came just as Lenox was settling into his armchair after a long, tiresome day in the city. He read it slowly, handed it back to Graham, and told him to throw it away. Its contents gave him a brief moment of preoccupation, but then, with a slight frown, he picked up the evening edition of the Standard and asked for his tea.

It was a bitterly cold late afternoon in the winter of 1865, with snow falling softly over the cobblestones of London. The clock had just chimed five o'clock, and darkness was dropping across the city—the gas lights were on, the shops had begun to close, and busy men filled the streets, making their way home.

It was the sort of day when Lenox would have liked to sit in his library, tinkering with a few books, pulling down atlases and maps, napping by the fire, eating good things, writing notes to his friends and correspondents, and perhaps even braving the weather to walk around the block once or twice.

But alas, such a day wasn't meant to be. He had been forced to go down to the Yard, even though he had already given Inspector Exeter what he thought was a tidy narrative of the Isabel Lewes case.

It had been an interesting matter, the widely reported Marlborough forgery—interesting, but, in the end, relatively simple. The family should never have had to call him in. It was such a characteristic failure for Exeter: lack of imagination. Lenox tried to be kind, but the inspector irritated him beyond all reason. What part of the man's mind forbade him from imagining that a woman, even as dignified a woman as Isabel Lewes, could commit a crime? You could be proper or you could investigate. Not both. Exeter was the sort of man who had joined the Yard partly for power and partly because of a sense of duty, but never because it was his true vocation.

Well, well, at least it was done. His bones were chilled straight through, and he had a pile of unanswered letters on his desk, but at least it was done. He scanned the headlines of the newspaper, which drooped precariously over his legs, and absentmindedly warmed his hands and feet by the large bright fire.

What bliss was there to compare to a warm fire, fresh socks, and buttered toast on a cold day! Ah, and here was his tea, and Lenox felt that at last he could banish Exeter, the Yard, and female criminals from his mind forever.

He sat in a long room on the first floor of his house. Nearest the door was a row of windows that looked out over the street he lived on, Hampden Lane. Opposite the windows was a large hearth, and in front of the hearth were a few armchairs, mostly made of red leather, where he was sitting now, and little tables piled high with books and papers. There were also two leather sofas in the middle of the room, and by the window a large oak desk. On the other two walls there were oak bookshelves that held the library he had collected over the years.

Lenox was a man of perhaps forty, with brown hair still untouched by age. He had been lean in his youth, and now, though he weighed more, he was still a tall thin man who stood erect, though without the uncomfortably ascetic bearing of many tall thin men. He had bright cheeks, a pleasant smile, and a short beard, such as men in Parliament were wont to wear. His eyes were a clear hazel and occasionally betrayed his geniality, for they would sharpen when he was absorbed with an idea or a suspicion.

If at twenty he had been single-minded and occasionally obsessive, at forty he had mellowed and now preferred to sit in front of a warm fire, reading the newspaper with a cup of tea in his hand. He had always loved his friends and his family dearly but took more pleasure in them now. He had always loved his work but allowed himself to be diverted from it more often now. It had simply happened that he had never married, and now he was a thorough bachelor, comfortable company but set in his ways and a good deal more snug at home than in the first ambition of his youth. Lenox hadn't changed, in his own estimation; and yet of course he had, as all men do.

The tea tray sat on a small side table by his chair, next to a stack of books, several of which had fallen to the floor, where he had left them the night before. The servants had learned by now to leave his library as he left it, except for an occasional dusting. He poured a healthy cup of tea, took a large scoop of sugar and a splash of milk, and then turned his attention to the plate of toast. Graham had thoughtfully added a small cake, which was a rare treat. But then, it had been a trying day.

After several cups of tea, a few pieces of toast, and a slice of the cake, he pushed the tray away with a feeling of contentment, dropped his paper on the floor, and picked up a slim leather volume. It was a recently published edition of The Small House at Allington, which he was reading slowly in order to savor it. Today he would give himself two chapters: another small reward for coping with both Inspector Exeter and the fearsome weather.

Graham came in after a moment to take away the tray.

"Excuse the interruption, sir," he said, "but will there be a reply to Lady Grey's letter?"

"It's horribly cold outside, Graham."

"Indeed, sir?"

"Really horribly cold. You expect a seal to stroll by you on the street."

"Are you warm now, sir?"

"Yes, a little better. I was only thinking about the cold."


Lenox sighed. "I suppose I'll have to go next door, though." There was a pause while he looked glumly into the fire.

"To Lady Grey's, sir?" said Graham.

Lenox didn't respond. He continued to look glum. Finally he said, "Yes, to Lady Grey's. I hate to do it, though."

"I'm sorry to hear that, sir," said Graham.

"It's beastly cold outside."

"It is, sir."

Lenox looked more and more glum. "Can't be helped, I expect," he said.

"No, sir."

Lenox sighed. "Will you get my things, then?"

"Of course, sir," said Graham. "Does this mean that you don't wish to reply—"

"No, no, no. That's why I'm going over."

"Very good, sir."

As the butler left, Lenox stood up and walked over to the window behind his desk. He had been looking forward to a night in by the fire, but he was being foolish, he thought. It was only a house away. He should put his boots on—they were tossed under his desk, next to an open copy of Much, Ado—and get ready to go. They would be just about dry, he hoped. And in truth he looked forward to seeing her.

Lady Jane Grey was a childless widow of just past thirty, who lived in the next house over. She was one of his closest friends in the world. This had been the case ever since they were children in Sussex. Sir Edmund, Charles's older brother, had once been in love with Lady Jane, but that was when they were all much younger, when Charles was just out of Harrow and on his way to Oxford.

Lenox and Lady Jane were neighbors on Hampden Lane, living next to each other in a row of gray stone houses on a little slip of an alley just off of St. James's Park in the neighborhood of Mayfair. As it had been for some time, Mayfair was the most prestigious address in London—and yet he had decided to live there because it was so near St. James's, where Lenox had gone with his father when he was a child.

The park was surrounded by palaces: Buckingham Palace to the left, St. James's Palace to the right, and Westminster Palace, more commonly known as Parliament, straight ahead. Like so many parks in London it had begun life as a place for Henry VIII to shoot deer, but Charles II, whom Lenox had always been fond of as a schoolboy, had opened it to the public and had often fed the ducks there himself, where he could talk with his subjects. Only thirty years ago they had changed all the canals into lakes, bred swans on the lakes, and planted beautiful willow trees. People skated there in the winter and walked through the brilliant green fields in the summer, and no matter what season it was, Lenox took a walk through it most nights—at least when he didn't have a case.

As he looked through the window of his library, Lenox could see the chimneys on Hampden Lane giving off black wisps of smoke, as his own did, and he could see that all of the houses were brightly lighted, and inside all of them tea was either on the table or had just been finished.

He stepped back from his window and told himself that he would see about the note in a few minutes. Perhaps Jane would have another cup of tea for him, at any rate. For now, he picked up the evening paper again and read with great interest, while Graham arranged his things, about the parries that Disraeli and Russell were trading back and forth; for Parliament was just back in session.

A BEAUTIFUL BLUE DEATH. Copyright © 2007 by Charles Finch

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A Beautiful Blue Death (Charles Lenox Series #1) 3.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 130 reviews.
JaneGorman More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed this book and I’m looking forward to reading the rest in the series. Charles Lenox is endearing, engaging and entertaining. He seems to have it all – but he has his flaws, too. There’s nothing worse than a protagonist who’s nothing but perfect, and Lenox is just the right amount of imperfect. The only thing better than the characters was the description and setting. I feel like I just got back from a trip to Victorian London! Which is exactly what I look for in my books – a fun escape. I didn’t try to figure out who done it – if I had, I would have been a little disappointed by the few times Lenox “made a call” or “asked a question” but the reader didn’t get to hear the answer (that’s always a pet peeve of mine). But this was so well written, and the description so engaging, that I was too busy being drawn along with the characters, the mystery and the social drama to be concerned about the clues. I would recommend this to anyone interested in a fun, engaging read that includes a little mystery.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I am hooked on this series, and have been since reading this first book. I'm a big fan of anything set in the Victorian era, and found lots of great detail in this book. Characters are believable, likable, and hold interest. I would recommend this author to fans of CS Harris - many similarities
Booklover87 More than 1 year ago
I read quite a few rave reviews from my fellow reviewers so I decided to check it out and I was very disappointed. I love mysteries and I especially love historical novels. But I felt that the plot was not exciting and I didn't especially like Charles Lenox. In any mystery, I need twists in the plot and misdirection. Finch tried misdirection but he did it in boring way. All in all I really didn't like the novel and I had to make myself finish it. Maybe the rest of the series is better...
Hayley-McBee More than 1 year ago
I'm a fan of mystery stories set in 1800s so I picked this book up after many recommendations. I wasn't entirely disappointed but I am sad I hadn't saved my money and merely borrowed the book. It wasn't that the story was bad-it was intriguing enough for me to finish the book. However, the last two chapters seemed entirely pointless and I found myself skimming paragraphs. I understand these chapters were to set up character development but after reading the entire book I still lacked any care about the main character, his female friend, and his family. I found their personalities very plain and couldn't make myself care one way or another about them. The read wasn't a complete waste of time but I wouldn't read it again or recommend it to someone looking for a keeper.
rsyb More than 1 year ago
I'm a Sir Arthur Conan Doyle fan and love mysteries set in Britain and this time period, Charles Finch's style and storytelling are so satisfying. I looked forward to the time I set aside to read this book. Moving on to September Society now.
PINKIEFAIR More than 1 year ago
This book is about a wealthy Victorian gentleman who is an amateur detective, Mr. Charles Lenox and his neighbor who is his childhood friend, Lady Jane Grey, she apprises Lenox of the death of her former maid, Prudence, apparently by suicide and requests his assistance in solving her death. The cast of characters were interesting and the plot was well thought out. I enjoyed the writing but when the mystery was solved the book kept going and going. I would read another of his books.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Loved this book! Great mystery and great setting! Who knew Victorian England was so interesting? Loved the Lennox and Lady Jane character and was taken by the end of the book. I have now requested Tea Time at my office much to the chagrin of everyone in it!
mamamia More than 1 year ago
Different and entertaining.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I understand that historical novels are rarely perfectly researched, but I do like to see a little effort at plausibility, missing here in what is supposed to be a mid-Victorian setting. The diction is entirely un-period, in the most obvious way. Plotting is also implausible and I found the characters dull. The writing clunked to the point where I lost patience less than a hundred pages in, and gave up.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I like that the main character is an ametuer detective. The characters are just different enough to add extra interest.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
When i first read this nook it took me a little while to get into it bt franky now i love this and the others in his series. It does start out slow but I myself found it wonderful.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Very enjoyable reading. Reminded me of a mix of sherlock holmes, jack aubrey, and nick charles for some reason. I had recently finished the dragon tattoo books and found this a nice change. I enjoy period pieces and will be reading another soon.
EnoMary More than 1 year ago
I bought this because I like Anne Perry's books and thought I would like this as well. And I do. Am on the 4th book of the series and like each book better than the last. (by the way, after a lifetime of book reading, I've come to enjoy reading on the Nook better - who knew?) The main characters are appealing and interesting and I've come to care about them a lot. Although I do not expect to see these books on the short list for the Booker or Nobel prizes, they are well-written and very enjoyable. Luckily for me the next on is coming out next month! Alas I have to wait until next March for the latest installment in the Maise Dobbs series.
ms77 More than 1 year ago
It wasn't so suspenseful that I couldn't put it down, but it's a good mystery with interesting and likable characters. I enjoyed the period details. A fun book to curl up with on a chilly winter day!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I really enjoy this time period and I am a fan of Sherlock Holmes. Charles Finch has created a detective just as compelling but even more complex. The supporting characters add a great deal to the book and I really enjoy his relationship with Lady Jane. Wonderful story.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Its great to find a writer that can bring mystery writing back to the quality of Ellery Queen and Agatha Christie.
EdnaMole More than 1 year ago
I am a big fan of mysteries set in Victorian England. A Beautiful Blue Death was very enjoyable and was definitely worth reading. The characters and setting were quite good. I especially enjoyed the interaction between the two brothers. I hope there will be a follow-up to this story.
TheLibraryhag on LibraryThing 3 months ago
Charles Lenox is a charming man of leisure with a talent for crime solving. He is recruited by his good friend, Lady Jane, to help solve the murder of her former servant. With the help of his brother and friends, Lenox investigates.I really enjoyed this book. It is well written and a very traditional British mystery. The characters and relationships are well drawn. The details of Victorian life are very nice. Well worth taking the time to read.
Joanie2016 More than 1 year ago
“A Beautiful Blue Death” is the first book in the Charles Lenox Mysteries and I am so very pleased to have discovered a wonderful new British cozy series. With its richly drawn characters and intricate plot set in 1860’s London, I felt transported back in time to the Victorian England. The main character, Charles Lenox s somewhat of a staid character, he is a decent man who goes against convention of his era and class by investigating murders. But what fully rounds out Lenox and his existence are two important secondary characters, his butler Graham and his close childhood friend, Lady Jane Grey. One scene that endeared Lenox to me was a flashback of his university days wherein as a wealthy, upper-crust student Lenox has a nodding acquaintance with a young Graham. One evening Graham, in desperation rushes into young Lenox’s room asking for help. Without hesitation Charles agrees, follow Graham to a small cottage wherein Graham’s sick father lay dying and the local doctor has refused to see the sick man. Lenox goes to bring the reluctant doctor, but it’s too late and he finds a devastated Graham holding his deceased father’s hand. Eventually, when Lenox discovers that Graham has no home to return to, he simply states that Graham should work for Lenox’s father, thereby providing employment and a home for this young man whom many of the elite class wouldn’t have given a second thought to helping. This act cemented Charles Lenox as a man of compassion and honor in my mind. is a young man in employ at Oxford. I adore Lady Jane, she also bucks tradition, as a widow who staunchly vows never to remarry, with her unconventional friendship with Lenox. She and Graham provide Lenox with support and security. I also like Lenox’s friendship with Dr. McConnell, a deeply flawed character and gifted doctor, Lenox's unwavering support to stand by his friend. The murder mystery had its twist and turns. I felt awful for James, grieving fiancé of the murdered woman. The poor man should have not have suffered and left to grieve for his unfaithful fiancé. I agree with lady Jane that Lenox should had told James’ of Prue’s amorous deceptions so that James could have made a more informed decision to process his grief, understood Prue for who she really was instead of his ideal of her, then move on. The author took his time with building and revealing his characters and setting in the well-researched and authentic first book. Finally, after stumbling through more than a few disappointing mystery books, I have found a wonderful new British cozy series to savor.
wordsandpeace More than 1 year ago
Butlers and rich employers mix in this mystery steeped in 19th century London. To read near your fireplace. I don’t think this could be a spoiler, so I’m jumping in by saying how neat it was when I realized this was not about a beautiful death that was blue, but about a death by beautiful blue! Really cool! You will of course have to read the book to understand what I’m talking about. Charles Lenox, a private investigator and bachelor in his forties, enjoys spending some cozy time with his books and his pipe near the fire. By a cold Winter day in 1865, he receives a note from Lady Grey, a friend and neighbor. To please her, he accepts to investigate the death of Prudence, a former maid of hers. He is helped by his butler Graham and a friend doctor Thomas, while Inspector Exeter from the Yard is his rival. How will Lenox see through the puzzling elements surrounding Prudence’s death and the many guests at her employer’s place, where her body was found? I found the plot a bit complicated, but there were great red herrings and a nice twist when something happened to the main suspect… I appreciated some interesting background facts, like the beginning of the fingerprint technique. There were also fascinating descriptions of very poor and dangerous neighborhoods of London at the time, in contrast with the clubs where the rich and politically important regularly meet. The author took great care in describing each character, but I think it was sometimes unnecessary and not helping at all with the story, for instance for with life of the doctor. But as this is the first volume of a series (10 published so far), these details could possibly relevant to further volumes.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
ElaineReads More than 1 year ago
What to say? What to say? I almost didn’t finish this book. If I had not made a commitment to review it, I probably would have quit a hundred pages in. And that would have been a mistake. It’s one of those books that grows on you. It is slow moving, but not slow if that makes sense. The story takes time to build. It is a murder mystery, of course, although there is a touch of a relationship developing. It is far more concerned with friendships than romance and that is a nice change of pace. Twice, I figured out who the murderer was and I was wrong both times. That, to me, is a sign of a good mystery. When the crime was finally solved, I never saw it coming. Again, a good sign. So why did I almost give up on this book? I think Charles Lenox is misrepresented. He comes across as a 60+ old man with a querulous nature who only wants the comforts of home. He’s an armchair traveler who never quite actually goes anywhere, no matter how much planning he does in arranging trips. He’s forty-years-old. Forty!! I like him. He has a Sherlockian mind and, like Sherlock, helps Scotland Yard with crimes they cannot solve . . . whether they want him to or not. But he does not come across as forty. And that’s my only criticism of the book. Charles Lenox is just not believable in the way he is portrayed. I liked the book, but I didn’t love it. I’m glad I finished it because it really was a good mystery. I’m tempted to read the rest of the series (there are nine of them so far), but I don’t feel compelled to jump into the next one. Again, what to say? What to say? This book was sent to me by NetGalley in return for an honest review.
laKa0711 More than 1 year ago
This book had a Sherlock meets Clue vibe to it. You have Charles Lennox, amateur sleuth, aka Sherlock, and his band of merry men set about solving the mysterious death of Prudence Smith, a servant. The members of the house were all conveniently in the drawing-room together. Classic Clue case of whodunit. No one seems to remember anything. You have wax drops on the floor but a brand new candle. A bottle of poison on the desk but a different kind than that that killed the girl. Open windows, crates of gold, and mysterious characters all around. But following along with all of this was a sheer struggle. A lot of information that was not relevant to the case was thrown in and went on for pages and pages, often causing me to get lost in the storyline of what was actually part of the murder case. A lot of historical facts were thrown in about random items and studies as well as random snippets where Finch would suddenly jump years ahead for no apparent reason and then backtrack to the scene at hand. Finch's writing is full of beautiful vocabulary, don't get me wrong, but he tries to be too clever. Following the end rationale for who committed the crime and why was excruciating! I was only intrigued to see out the end for a short period of time, never very suspenseful or had me sitting on the edge of my seat. Overall, there was just too much "other" filling up the pages. Check out my full review at http://readinglikeafool.blogspot.com
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is as dry as all of the toast the main character consume in this book. Honestly how much toast can a character eat and why does the author think this should be such an important part of the story. I was expecting a fun Victorian murder mystery but almost ended up being bored to death about details like toast. Not enough character development (unless you like boring characters who only think of their next tea or mindless conversation that has nothing to do with the plot) and the story drags.