Saturday, May 5, 2012

A Beautiful Blue Death

What I try to do with reviews at this Bookshelf blog is keep it simple and spoiler-free, and let you know whether I'd recommend you pick up a copy of what I just read. Seems to work okay. This time, a (very) brief review of A Beautiful Blue Death (St. Martin's, 2007).

Marie correctly figured that I would enjoy this mystery novel a good deal. Set in 1865, it features a gentleman sleuth named Charles Lenox. He has money and an equally rich brother who's an MP, he's close friends with an attractive, titled young widow who lives next door and with a devil-may-care young doctor He has a butler who is spectacularly capable and the soul of discretion, and a fractious relationship with the newly-formed Scotland Yard, whose barely-competent police detectives have not yet met any fictional supersleuths telling them what they're doing wrong.

Add this character the bonuses of period London, big posh homes, and the struggle between the upstairs and the downstairs as seen through modern eyes. Why this book hasn't shown up at WGBH's door with a note that reads "Please give the BBC money to make me and put me on PBS Masterpiece," I can't imagine.

In his first case, Lenox is asked by his neighbor, Lady Jane Grey, to investigate the suspicious death of a former maid, which is being called a suicide. But there are elements that the police have overlooked, and a possible political scandal regarding the homeowner, George Barnard, who has important connections to England's treasury, and a home full of curious house guests.

Briefly, this was indeed a very fun book. With the posh 'tec's casual and trusted relationship with Graham, Charles Finch has effortlessly evoked the wonderful relationship between Lord Peter Wimsey and Bunter. It's a good mystery, with an excellent cast of characters, and a real sense of research and hard work put into evoking the period. I almost wish that I had read it in 2007, so that I could hope for and wonder whether there would be additional novels featuring Lenox. As it is, there are five at this point, and I'm looking forward to catching up. I hope that a new one will be out later this year, because the more of these that I have to read, the better.

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