Charles Finch, A Death in the Small Hours
Victorian gentleman and amateur detective Charles Lenox has largely given up sleuthing in the pursuit of other interests. A rising member of Parliament, he’s just been asked to give the opening speech for the next session — a very great honor that fills him with both pride and anxiety. But when his uncle, a well-to-do country squire, writes him a letter describing some recent acts of vandalism, Charles is tempted to return to his previous life of detection. He eventually accepts his uncle’s invitation, reasoning that a little time away from London will give him the peace and quiet necessary to work on his speech. When petty vandalism escalates to murder, however, Charles must use all his former skills to uncover the sinister secrets lurking within his uncle’s village.
I always enjoy the Charles Lenox mysteries, but I think this one is a bit of a weak link. My biggest complaint is that the mystery is very perfunctory and almost uninteresting. Although the solution was creative, with the appropriate number of red herrings and so forth, I just didn’t seem to care about it very much! To be fair, the main purpose of the book seems to be Charles’ internal development rather than the external mystery: he is beginning to learn that being a member of Parliament isn’t the dream career he thought it would be. I do love Charles’ character and am interested to see what will happen to him next; I was also very glad to see more of Dallington and would love to see him take a central role in upcoming books! Overall, I definitely plan to continue the series, but this is not one of the strongest installments.
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