Sunday, August 4, 2013

A Death in the Small Hours

A Death in the Small Hours
Charles Finch

First Sentence:
"Charles Lenox sat in the study of his town house in Hampden Lane--that small, shop-lined street just off Grosvenor Place where he had passed most of his adult life--and sifted through the papers that had accumulated upon his desk, as they would, inevitably, when one became a member of Parliament..."
Publisher's Description:
From Charles Finch, the critically acclaimed author of A Beautiful Blue Death and A Burial at Sea, comes Death in the Small Hours, an intriguing new mystery in what The New York Times calls "a beguiling series"  Charles Lenox is at the pinnacle of his political career and is a delighted new father. His days of regularly investigating the crimes of Victorian London now some years behind him, he plans a trip to his uncle's estate, Somerset, in the expectation of a few calm weeks to write an important speech. When he arrives in the quiet village of Plumley, however, what greets him is a series of strange vandalisms upon the local shops: broken windows, minor thefts, threatening scrawls.
Only when a far more serious crime is committed does he begin to understand the great stakes of those events, and the complex and sinister mind that is wreaking fear and suspicion in Plumley.  Now, with his protege, John Dallington, at his side, the race is on for Lenox to find the culprit before he strikes again.  And this time his victim may be someone that Lenox loves.

Dear Reader,

I was thoroughly charmed by this quintessentially English book. I don’t often read books which are part of a series, particularly not books which are several into a series, but this mystery novel stood quite well on its own. Apart from a few allusions which I believe were inserted for the series’ loyal followers, I didn’t feel like I was missing out on anything by starting on book six of the Charles Lenox mysteries.

Perhaps that had to do with the setting of the book, which took place largely away from Lenox’s London home. I enjoyed the English countryside mystery novel; the whole thing recalled to me the feeling I had when reading The Hound of the Baskervilles. I enjoyed the small town characters which Finch painted in vivid colors. Everyone had a strikingly unique personality, while also being quite immersed in village life.

One of my favorite aspects of the book was, oddly, the relationship which Lenox had with Sadie. Who was Sadie, you ask? Why, his cousin’s horse, of course! Seriously, though, you could tell Finch had a fondness for Sadie as he wrote quite at length about her. And she was, in many ways, one of the heroes of the story!

Learning the true identity of the murderer in the middle of the book really threw me for a loop; I am so used to detective stories which present the Big Reveal, and thus the denouement. And yet this story felt like it should have been finished halfway through! However, Finch wasn’t nearly done yet. And I thought that wonderful, because there WAS so much more to reveal - many small mysteries played themselves out during the rest of the book (and some big ones, as well!).

All in all, a very enjoyable diversion of a book. Highly recommended for those who are Sherlock Holmes fans. Oh, and there is nothing, absolutely nothing, scary about this book. Not in the least. (For those who might shy from spooky murder mysteries.) It’s all quite pleasant!


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