The Fleet Street Murders
Amateur detective Charles Lenox is having a happy Christmas in his Mayfair townhouse with his fiancée Lady Jane Grey while across London, two prominent newspapermen have simultaneously met a violent end. Lenox is intrigued, but his efforts at solving the case must take a back seat to his need to go to north England to campaign for a seat in Parliament. Two likely suspects in the case are quickly apprehended, but Lenox has his doubts. To him, the crimes seem inevitably linked to an old nemesis and former suitor of his Jane, George Barnard. However with no evidence of his suspicions, and no time to uncover some, the gentleman detective is frustrated. Worse, Lady Jane sends a wire expressing some doubts about their relationship.
This mystery, set in 1867 London, is as far from the mean streets of contemporary novels as Lenox is in the faraway north of England. Moreover in Lenox, there is no deeply flawed crime fighter. He is as warm and upstanding as one can be, a truly likeable fellow who seems destined to secure his love, the infinitely desirable Lady Jane. That is what sets this book apart from the pack. It is just so comfortable, like talking to old friend over a wee dram of Scotch near a warming fire. The scenes and the story itself are subtly evocative of that more livable 19th century. The pacing fits as well, chapters short and to the point, but entirely lacking in the over-the-top action so often found in crime novels. Not that the mystery is lacking—it is as puzzling and complex to challenge even the most expert reader. It just doesn’t overwhelm you.
Charles Finch has crafted a fine addition to a fine series. Highly recommended. It’s just so darn likeable.