Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Charles Lennox Series

Charles Lenox is an English Gentleman in Victoria's England. His butler is more of a friend than a servant and he is in love with his best childhood friend & next-door-neighbor Lady Jane Grey.  

I find this to be a very entertaining series, with (mostly) likeable characters, interesting bits of history thrown in......  Because I am a "ROO", I read them out of order, but it really didn't matter to me.....

What I really like about Charles Lenox is the fact that he is very down-to-earth, he is progressively for human rights, and he is a very caring & affectionate man of his time.

The series is written by Charles Finch.
"A Beautiful Blue Death"  2007 

★ ★ ★

A Beautiful Blue DeathLady Jane Grey's former maid, Prudence Smith (who has changed households to be w/ her Fiancee), had been found poisoned. There was a suicide note addressed to her Fiancee James.... However it was soon brought to light that Pru only ever called James, Jem, and Pru was illiterate, so she never could have written the note. Also coming to light was the fact that although there was Arsenic in a bottle next to the glass, there was only arsenic on the rim of the glass, not in it. Also odd was an absence of finger prints on the glass and another very rare type of poison that actually killed Pru.

Pru was working for a rather gruff man, George Barnard in charge of the mint. The mint had recently been under attack as there was a large amount of new gold coinage soon to be released to the public, and Barnard was set to guard it. The gold coinage was secretly stored in Barnard's house until such a time when it was to be released. Staying in Barnard's house were his two nephews and two men from Parliament (who were also guarding the gold coinage). 

I do like Charles Lenox..... He is so different a person from the prescribed Gentlemen of the times. He was intelligent, curious, and interested in humanity. He's not stuffy, erudite, nor arrogant. I also like his relationship with; his childhood friend & neighbor Lady Jane Grey, his butler Graham, his brother Edmund, friend Thomas, the semi-incompetent Scotland Yard Inspector Exeter, as well as the local merchants & workers.

I am taking this down 1 star because of the way the conclusion was written. Basically the conclusion jumped ahead ten years for Claude Barnard and then went back to the present time to conclude for his uncle George Barnard. I believe the book would have been so much better had the author stuck to the time line rather than follow the characters' individual stories.

"The September Society" 2008

★ ★ ★ ★

The September SocietyThis is another Charles Lenox mystery set in Victorian London, Oxford, & a short in India.
Charles is called upon by a young Oxonian's mother to locate him, as George has just disappeared as they were about to set out for tea..... The young man went to his room and then when he didn't show, his mother went up to find his rooms messed and his cat dead..... She goes immediately to call upon Charles & asks him to find her son. Also missing is one of George's two friends.... 

The mess in George's rooms are set to leave clues about The September Society, a group of officers who left behind two of their own in India dead by misadventure/suicide..... While returning to his home for a short bit, Charles is called back to Oxford only to find George dead of murder and his friend still missing...... Last seen George had been in the presence of a mysterious man calling himself Canterbury.... 

Charles enlists the help of Dallington (who is on a binge and of little use), his friend McConnell, his brother Edmund, & a high standing member of Parliament. Lady Jane & McConnell's wife Toto are only around on the periphery and the banter about them includes Toto's dithering on naming her yet to be born child and Charles's conundrum about asking Lady Jane to marry him...... Quite charming I'm sure, but tedious.

This book was more interesting than the last two I read, there was more action and more mysterious characters.... It also contained some interesting history of England's dubious presence in India. I liked the mystery of the two missing Oxonian's and the setting of the clues by one of them to help solve the crime.
"The Fleet Street Murders"  2009

★ ★ ★ ★

The Fleet Street MurdersAnother Charles Lenox mystery, set in Victorian England. Charles is set to marry his best childhood friend Lady Jane Grey, when their friends Thomas & Toto McConnell lose the child Toto is carrying... sending all into a funk and setting Lady Jane in to a state of questioning herself.....

Charles is preparing to run for Parliament, when the current member dies.. thus pushing Charles into a rushed election against a "local" who has moved his business out of town..... Dirty politics here, but a bit of information on the running of a campaign and getting to know one's constituency.
In the mean time two journalists have been murdered across town from each other but within 5 minutes of each other and Charles is privately called into the investigation... One of the murderers is caught and dies in prison, the other confesses..... After a fashion the nasty Scotland Yard inspector is also murdered (for me this was no great loss)......

Well written and compelling I was unable to put the book down until I finished it.......

"A Stranger in Mayfair"  2010

★ ★ ★

Meh, did I care? Not a whit!

A Stranger in MayfairCharles & Lady Jane are in Paris on their honeymoon..... He comes across a young distraught woman, her parents will not allow her to marry whom she loves.... He goes to the Lourve (?) and purchases a painting by Manet...

They come back to England.... he convinces his butler Graham to become his secretary..... Charles stays out late on a case & Lady Jane becomes angry & hysterical (but before they were married she had no problem with this)...

Their friends Toto has her baby and christening.... Blah blah blah, just filler.....
Another member of Parliament's footman is murdered and Charles is asked to investigate.... He goes to a trusted Scotland yard source who angrily turn's Charles away, then the man who asked for Charles's help also turns Charles away..... 

There are other peripheral characters.....

I do not believe the book was well written nor the story thought out..... I figured out the murderer, and there was so much more that could have added to the book.
"A Burial at Sea"  2011
★ ★ ★

A Burial at SeaCharles Lenox is asked by the Prime Minister (via his brother) to go on a secret mission to Egypt, there he is to meet w/ a French Agent and find out how it is that the French have come to kill 5 out of 8 British Agents & how many more they know about. Charles is also to meet w/ the Khedive and discuss the business of the Suez Canal.

Charles sets sail on The Lucy along with his nephew (a newly ranked Midshipman) to Egypt to become embroiled in the murder of the First Lieutenant and later the Captain..... There is explanation of life on a sailing vessel, the foods, accommodations, the running of the ship, the difference in the decks, and jobs of the crew. 
What I always find odd is that although the murderer is announced by the beginning of the last 1/4, the story always continues with other side plots and sometimes backtracks......

This was a fast and entertaining read, but I honestly didn't like it as much as the others...... I found some of the ship time boring and I never got to really know any of the characters.....
 "Death in the Small Hours" 2012
★ ★ ★

A Death in the Small HoursAs usual Charles Finch writes an interesting detective story set in Victorian England.... His detective, now member of Parliament Charles Lenox is a gentleman of distinction, recently married t his best friend Lady Jane & now father of the baby Sophia. Unlike Victorian parents, they spend as much time as possible with Sophia.

The story is set mostly in the countryside @ the estate of Charles's rather older cousin Freddy. Freddy has called Charles in to investigate a series of vandalism & theft in the small town.... While there a murder of one of the local police occurs..... Twists & turns throughout the story and the crime is mostly solved by 3/4 through.....

It is well written but slow in places and Finch writes his books for both men & women to enjoy.

What didn't work for me:
* Lady Jane's machinations of matchmaking.....
* The mention that John Dallington (Charles's protege) was in the investigation of the 1875 Waugh murder @ The Priory.... It seems it was merely mentioned in passing then ignored and could well have been omitted.... (see "Death at the Priory: Love, Sex, and Murder in Victorian England" by James Ruddick)

* We never got to know the murder victim, a cousin of Constable and a Jr. Policeman himself. It seems he was just there to be a "body".
 "An Old Betrayal"  2013
★ ★ ★ ★

An Old BetrayalSet in 1875 London; Charles Lenox, member of Parliament & sometimes detective, is called upon to meet a stranger in Charring Cross...... Realizing that he has just mistaken the identity of his client he goes after her only to be waylaid by a man of obvious good breeding. The murder of another man of breeding at his hotel door sends Charles chasing red herrings and finally brings him to the Palace and the personal staff of Queen Victoria.

Meanwhile at home his wife Lady Jane is pandering to her simpering and overly emotional friend Toto McConnell. It seems that Toto's husband, Doctor Thomas McConnell, has been seen in the presence of a notorious flirtatious society widow......

Charles is working w/ Prime Minister Disraeli on a reform bill; as Lady Jane is one of the movers & shakers in London society she has planned one of her famous & exclusive dinners honoring Benjamin Disraeli. It is rumored throughout Parliament that Graham, Charles's personal secretary is on the take and Charles (as he is working w/ the P.M.) is forced to deal with the fallout.

There are many twists and turns which keeps the book interesting and fast moving. There is some interesting history, which I do appreciate, including the history of Charring Cross....

The one thing that is beginning to grate on my nerves is the selfish, over-emotional, whining Toto McConnell...... Of all the characters she is the least likeable and the one who add absolutely nothing to society, except "color".