a beautiful blue death

I’ve had A Beautiful Blue Death by Charles Finch on my to-read list since spring of 2008 and I finally got around to listening to the audio version this month.

Why I chose this book:

I have certainly been on a mystery kick lately, and I have a weakness for those set in Victorian England. And it doesn’t hurt that this one was nominated for an Agatha Award in 2007 for best first novel. The detective in this one, Charles Lenox, is a particular type of detective I’ve run into before. He’s a gentleman, an aristocrat whose older brother has all the responsibility while Lenox is able to afford to solve crimes more or less as a hobby. He’s a bachelor, well-read, an armchair traveler, but when his dear friend Lady Jane asks him to look into the death of her former maid, Prudence Smith, he heads out in the cold. The woman was murdered; he is sure after examining the scene, even though it was staged to look like a suicide. It’s a traditional style mystery, light on the blood and gore, and fits in well with those older mysteries by the likes of Christies and Marsh.

Why I enjoyed this book:

Finch certainly portrayed Victorian London well from the view of the upper classes. His descriptions of places and people’s attitudes were believable.

The characters were well done. Lenox himself is thinking man who can make those deductions that surprise others. He’s a good man who while definitely a member of the upper class still believes the maid deserves to have her killer caught and justice done. His butler, Graham, is an interesting man. Almost friends with Lenox, his help on the case in invaluable. The other character who has a large part in Lenox’ life and the investigation is Lady Jane. She’s a widow, a pillar of society, and her friendship with Lenox stretches back to their childhood. She’s intelligent and resilient. Their friendship never steps over the bounds, but it is very close and comfortable. Hopefully it will bloom into a romance.

The plot was interesting. Prue was killed in a house full of family, guests and servants, any and all of whom were potential suspects. Then a second murder occurs, pointing Lenox in a new direction entirely, since the second victim was at the top of the suspect list.

Also, the narrator, James Langton, did a fine job. When listening to a book, I want to forget about the narrator because I’m so wrapped up in the story and that happened here. He differentiated the characters well and nothing was jarring, nothing pulled me out of the book.

What I didn’t like about the book:

I don’t really have much to complain about. There were a couple of times when the author referred to future events that would eventually happen, which I tend to not be particularly fond of. Like what the culprit will be doing 20 years from now. I don’t really care.

Why I’d recommend this book:

If you’re not a mystery fan, I wouldn’t bother picking this one up, but if you do enjoy mysteries, particularly historical ones, this is enjoyable. There’s a twist at the end that caught me a little off guard, but made total sense once I thought about it. It’s a comfortable read, at least for me, the type of mystery I like and know, in a general way, what to expect. It’s a good book to curl up with when it’s snowy outside, like today. I do wish I was wearing a pair of boots Lenox purchases near the end. I think they’d actually keep my feet warm and dry on the walk home, but I’m not entirely sure the ones I’m wearing will.

4 out of 5 stars

Category: Mystery

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Charles Lenox #1
First published June 26, 2007
8 hours, 58 minutes
Read by James Langton

Book source: Library

Charles Lenox Mysteries

  1. A Beautiful Blue Death
  2. The September Society
  3. The Fleet Street Murders
  4. A Stranger in Mayfair
  5. “An East End Murder”
  6. A Burial at Sea
  7. A Death in the Small Hours