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A Beautiful Blue Death (Charles Lenox Mysteries #1)

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On any given day in London, all Charles Lenox, Victorian gentleman and armchair explorer, wants to do is relax in his private study with a cup of tea, a roaring fire and a good book. But when his lifelong friend Lady Jane asks for his help, Lenox cannot resist another chance to unravel a mystery, even if it means trudging through the snow to her townhouse next door. One On any given day in London, all Charles Lenox, Victorian gentleman and armchair explorer, wants to do is relax in his private study with a cup of tea, a roaring fire and a good book. But when his lifelong friend Lady Jane asks for his help, Lenox cannot resist another chance to unravel a mystery, even if it means trudging through the snow to her townhouse next door. One of Jane's former servants, Prudence Smith, is dead -- an apparent suicide. But Lenox suspects something far more sinister: murder, by a rare and deadly poison. The house where the girl worked is full of suspects, and though Prudence dabbled with the hearts of more than a few men, Lenox is baffled by an elusive lack of motive in the girl's death. When another body turns up during the London season's most fashionable ball, Lenox must untangle a web of loyalties and animosities. Was it jealousy that killed Prudence? Or was it something else entirely, something that Lenox alone can uncover before the killer strikes again -- disturbingly close to home?


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On any given day in London, all Charles Lenox, Victorian gentleman and armchair explorer, wants to do is relax in his private study with a cup of tea, a roaring fire and a good book. But when his lifelong friend Lady Jane asks for his help, Lenox cannot resist another chance to unravel a mystery, even if it means trudging through the snow to her townhouse next door. One On any given day in London, all Charles Lenox, Victorian gentleman and armchair explorer, wants to do is relax in his private study with a cup of tea, a roaring fire and a good book. But when his lifelong friend Lady Jane asks for his help, Lenox cannot resist another chance to unravel a mystery, even if it means trudging through the snow to her townhouse next door. One of Jane's former servants, Prudence Smith, is dead -- an apparent suicide. But Lenox suspects something far more sinister: murder, by a rare and deadly poison. The house where the girl worked is full of suspects, and though Prudence dabbled with the hearts of more than a few men, Lenox is baffled by an elusive lack of motive in the girl's death. When another body turns up during the London season's most fashionable ball, Lenox must untangle a web of loyalties and animosities. Was it jealousy that killed Prudence? Or was it something else entirely, something that Lenox alone can uncover before the killer strikes again -- disturbingly close to home?

30 review for A Beautiful Blue Death (Charles Lenox Mysteries #1)

  1. 4 out of 5

    Barb

    Let me first make a few disclaimers, I did not finish this book. I almost always believe that reviewers who do not finish the book should not be leaving reviews with stars. I am going to make an exception with this book as I have with only one other. This time I am making the exception because I hope to spare someone, who has similar tastes to mine, the pain of reading this book. I looked at the reviews of this book on Amazon and on GoodReads before I chose to read it, they are overwhelmingly fav Let me first make a few disclaimers, I did not finish this book. I almost always believe that reviewers who do not finish the book should not be leaving reviews with stars. I am going to make an exception with this book as I have with only one other. This time I am making the exception because I hope to spare someone, who has similar tastes to mine, the pain of reading this book. I looked at the reviews of this book on Amazon and on GoodReads before I chose to read it, they are overwhelmingly favorable. Which seems nearly impossible to me after reading as much as I did. I don't do well with satire and I wonder if that is the problem for me with this book. Is it satire? I honestly don't know/couldn't tell. Maybe someone else can help answer this question. Let me tell you how I generally read a book. I pay close attention to what the author tells me, in fact I almost always take notes. Is this because I am a geek or a nerd of the philomathic style? Yes. And because I do not want to flip back looking for the family relationship of a character or the title of a particular Lord or some fact that might be key in puzzling out the mystery of the story. I also want to remember what I read and be able to offer a thoughtful review, favorable or critical, and I want to be able to support my opinion with reasons and details. I do not read a book like I chew gum, mindlessly. Okay, so you get a little of how I do things. This story is set in London, 1865. Charles Lennox is a dear friend to Lady Jane Grey. Lady Jane's former servant has been found dead under unusual circumstances. Lennox has some experience in discreet investigative work and offers to look into the matter for her. There seemed to me an overwhelming number of odd things and things that seem out of order for this period in time. One of the things that I found very unlikely was the overall lack of formality between the characters of wealth and an unusual relationship of familiarity between the wealthy characters and their servants. For example; Lady Jane's maid interrupts her mistress while she is entertaining company. A nephew introduces himself with only a first name. Lennox refers to his doctor friend by his first name when speaking to an apothecary. Lennox tells his butler to go to his room, change his clothes, sit by the fire and take a nap and when he is rested he can come and tell him what he discovered about the murdered girl. Lennox keeps a suit of clothes in a drawer in the library. The midnight streets were deserted in London. Lennox is shocked at the dire financial straight of one of the suspects. Lennox is amazed that the maid is illiterate. Lennox drops his keys in a bowl by the front door (his car keys maybe?). Then goes and unlocks a desk drawer that holds paper and a pencil. Yet later tells the butler "No, no, just take the money on my dresser before you go out." Lennox follows a suspect to his club. How does he know what he looks like? The butler hasn't seen him nor has he relayed any description of the nephew that he may have learned from the house staff at Barnard's. There is a contemporary sensibility to the entire story. At one point Lennox says "Surely it's the work of a moment to research any poison in the world?" Perhaps on their Victorian laptops? Lennox gives a second apothecary two pounds and a note from a first apothecary. He then readily gives him two more pounds, from his own money and one more before the leaves his shop. He gives the carriage driver a shilling. That seems like a very generous payment to the apothecary for being cooperative and assisting Lennox with his investigation. Then there is the whole initial crime scene where Lennox and the doctor are concerned about getting their fingerprints on things in the room. And they have established a narrow window for the time of death based on the stiffness of her body. And the doctor is ready with a handy-dandy poison testing kit from his bag. Is this 2009 or 1865? The last straw for me was when Lennox began contemplating his carriage driver's feeling of dislike for all of the traveling to lower-class sections of London. If it were just a few things that didn't ring true I might have continued reading but the characters were dull as toast. Toast itself was mentioned far too often. The dialogue was dreadful and the story was not at all engaging. So, I had to give it up. Please feel free to tell me the errors in my thinking in regard to this book. My conscience is clear, those of you who like what I like have been warned. Those of you who chew up words in a book like they are gum, disregard this rant and chew away.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Tracey

    Alas, suckered in yet again by a beautiful cover and really good title. The title, however, is pedantically explained away very quickly in the book – and that is pretty much how the rest of the writing runs as well. Repetition and a strong case of the “Captain Obvious is obvious” make up the dominant style here: the first chapter is spent largely on explaining how Our Hero Lenox has just come home and it’s cold and he doesn’t want to go out again. He wants to stay by his fire with a book. He wou Alas, suckered in yet again by a beautiful cover and really good title. The title, however, is pedantically explained away very quickly in the book – and that is pretty much how the rest of the writing runs as well. Repetition and a strong case of the “Captain Obvious is obvious” make up the dominant style here: the first chapter is spent largely on explaining how Our Hero Lenox has just come home and it’s cold and he doesn’t want to go out again. He wants to stay by his fire with a book. He would rather not go out in the cold again. “I say, Graham, it’s cold out.” [Graham, the butler does not say:] “Yes, you bleeding twit, you’ve said that four times already.” And Lenox does go out, and – lo, and behold: it’s cold. And so on. One character, McConnell, whom Lenox brings in for medical advice, is a drunken failure. And oh, he’s a doctor. And he drinks. And he is despised by many as a failure. Because he drinks. And so on. There is a summary description of the downward spiral of the man’s marriage, with no more emotion than the description of Lenox’s study, and no insight or empathy: simply a list of events. There is no artistry to the writing. Which in and of itself can be fine – I don’t expect (or want) every line to drip with poetry. But some flair, something to distinguish the style from a generic children’s book or textbook might be nice – something to indicate that the author actually has a reason to want to be an author rather than an actuary or arborist. Instead, much of it consists of a section of dialogue, brought to a complete standstill by a paragraph or two describing a room minutely, or talking about the history of the police force: very much see-Spot-run. There is one sentence that stood out for me as a great example of why I just didn’t enjoy this book: “You could have knocked Lenox over with a feather.” The narration constantly brings me into it – “you” this and “you” that, and it started feeling like a choose-your-own-adventure novel. And such a cliché… Personally, I’d work very hard to avoid such a vapid chestnut. Finch does not. There were small – and not-so-small – errors scattered throughout. Example: the description of a place with awnings up in midwinter. A snowy midwinter. That’s not a good idea; they wouldn’t stay up for long. Example: Lenox is attacked by two men. One of them has a very prominent tattoo – a hammer alongside his left eye. Earlier in the book, someone made mention of a gang of roughs called the Hammer. Hmmmm. And yet – Lenox never mentions the (extremely prominent) tattoo when he talks about the attack, and he wonders and he ponders on whoever could have done it. Small examples: “McConnell! Lenox! A toast!” – but there isn’t one. And “I’ll use the old call” – a signal he and his brother used as children – which consists of yelling his brother’s name. These boys and their cryptic private codes … There are two threads running, quite annoyingly, through the whole blessed book: Lenox has bad boots which leave his feet cold and wet, and every meal or snack or beverage he partakes of is detailed. (Not even lovingly detailed – just … detailed.) It goes back to the feeling that this is a children’s book: “and then Charles had four pieces of toast!” (not an actual quote). And for the love of Bob, man, you’re rich and you live in London – you have no excuse – stop your whingeing and go get a decent pair of bloody boots. ETA: Speaking of food, one sentence I marked was: “They ate very simple food – cold sliced tomatoes, mashed potatoes, and milk” – ew ew ew ew ew. It seems to take forever to get through the solution of the mystery, and then it finally ends. But there is still a good-sized chunk of the book left. And then comes another ending. And another. The piecemeal wrap-up and coda are painful. I find it a bit of a stretch to believe that this drunken failure of what used to be a good doctor (remember him?) could take a five-minute look at the corpse and pronounce it death by bella indigo, repeatedly stressed to be a rare and expensive poison. (*ETA* thanks to a comment from Jocelyn below - I thought based on a very cursory internet search that "bella indigo" was the same as nightshade. It isn't - apparently the author made up the poison. Which, I agree, is cheating.) However, maybe the doctor intuits the real poison used because, though a drunk, he’s just that awesome. Quote: “My own opinion is that one day even a single speck of something will tell us everything about it”. Really. Gosh. How perspicacious of you. There are several things that just don’t feel right for the time period this is set in. They may be just fine; they may be down to Lenox’s odd character (or Finch’s attempt to be unique); it all just felt very off. Example: Lenox, a gentleman, straggles down to breakfast – and other meals – in his robe and slippers. Example: Lady Jane promises Lenox the first dance at some shindig, and then partners someone else. I don’t care if that someone else is the host, I thought that was the height of bad manners. Example: People drink a great deal of water in the book, which may be just fine, but maybe I was thinking of medieval London, when to drink water was to court some brand of dysentery. I just found it very, very odd that, for example, waiters were circulating about a ballroom with trays of glasses of water. If nothing else I would expect something like that to prompt scandalized and shocked whispers about the host’s parsimony and lack of hospitality. And one more: Lenox belongs to multiple clubs. I went back and collected them: The Athanaeum Club, the Savile, the Devonshire, the Eton and Hammer, the Oriental, the Marlborough, the Oxford and Cambridge, and the Travelers. Seriously, eight clubs? Maybe it’s possible – each of these is apparently slanted toward a different interest – but in my limited experience with fiction of the period I’ve never seen a character who belonged to more than one. That was kind of the point of a club, I thought – to belong, for there to be a sort of pied-à-terre or comfortable place away from home. Eight boltholes seems a bit excessive, especially for a man who loves his home and seems a bit of a homebody. (ETA: I was wrong; I’ve noticed more than one mention out there of more than one club membership. Not eight, mind you, but I was at least partly wrong about the one.) Next door to Lenox lives his best friend, called Lady Jane, who brings him into the case. He-who-was-Richard points out in his review that, really, “Lady Jane Grey” is only called that to be cute. “Her husband had been Captain Lord James Grey, Earl of Deere”, so she ought indeed to be “Lady Deere” (or something). This mistake does not boost confidence in the author (but it does line up with other small mistakes, like those above). Jane is supposed to be feisty and independent and intelligent – and I know this because I’m told so. This is the sum total of her characterization. Now, naturally, a relationship such as Lenox and Jane have could easily be seen as “inappropriate”, i.e. sexual – but it’s okay! The author makes sure to hammer home the fact that they’re just friends! It’s ok! They have a special relationship! Another special relationship for Lenox is that with his butler, the aforementioned Graham. In other reviews folks noted that Lenox is supposed to echo Lord Peter in some ways, and I have to say I feel that that is pretty silly. The closest point of comparison is this man-manservant relationship, but … no. The bond between Bunter and Peter was built over the course of the whole series of books, with a revelation of their past here and a present-day moment there, and it was beautiful. Here, the whole past and present of the relationship is vomited out in one chapter. Also? Graham is no Bunter, and I can’t believe the universe even allows me to put Lenox and Lord Peter in the same sentence. Charles Lenox. I’m sorry, he’s just dull. The single solitary real Lord-Peter-esque thing about him is that he’s the younger son of a peer who investigates crimes as a whim. But he’s just such a schlub. He plans exotic trips that never happen. He muddles on very happily in a lovely city home and buys whatever he wants (except a decent pair of boots). The way Lenox treats his books did not endear him to me. He repeatedly knocks piles of books off desks and whatnot, and leaves them there. Lord Peter would flatten his nose for him. And his investigative skills? There’s the main reason that the Lord Peter comparisons make the hair on the back of my neck stand up. Not out of fear or whatever, but more in the manner of a really pissed-off dog’s hackles rising. He’s not a smart man, Lenox, or at least he’s not written as such, though I think the reader is expected to think him ever so clever. His method of interrogating suspects is to ask “Did you kill her?” He seems convinced each time that he’ll receive an answer other than an outraged “No!” Oh, and the initial crime scene? Lenox mocks the pinch-hitting detective for believing in a suicide – but how can he think otherwise when a) no one points out the pen thing (which yes he should notice, but almost no one did); b) he has no way of knowing for certain the girl was illiterate and couldn’t have written a suicide note; c) most importantly, Lenox took away evidence that was sitting there. Lenox and McConnell also undressed (and redressed?) the corpse. This kind of tampering with a crime scene would be literally criminal if this book had been set in even a slightly later age. So, no, the man is no Lord Peter. He’s no Sherlock Holmes, either, God knows, although he plays at it, making Sherlockian deductions based on observation. The difference – well, the difference reminds me of Much Ado About Nothing: “And then they laugh at him, and beat him.” Holmes disarms people, and frightens some, and impresses everyone when he tells them details he couldn’t possibly know. Lenox tries it a couple of times, and just annoys people. Just as he annoyed me.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Katy

    I am very sorry to say that this book suffers from three major faults which I was unable to ignore. First, it's full of Americanisms. By halfway through I was so annoyed by them being used in the context of a London-based tale set in the mid-Victorian period, that I began to list them with their British 'translations':- Sidewalk (pavement) Sure you are (of course you are) Gotten (got) He took a left (he turned left) Clubhouse (Club) How do you figure? (how do you work that out?) Workingman (worker, lab I am very sorry to say that this book suffers from three major faults which I was unable to ignore. First, it's full of Americanisms. By halfway through I was so annoyed by them being used in the context of a London-based tale set in the mid-Victorian period, that I began to list them with their British 'translations':- Sidewalk (pavement) Sure you are (of course you are) Gotten (got) He took a left (he turned left) Clubhouse (Club) How do you figure? (how do you work that out?) Workingman (worker, labourer) Pants (trousers) Closet (cupboard) Trash (rubbish) Too bad (what a pity) Woodpile (coal scuttle - in London they would be burning coal not wood) Wastebasket (waste-paper basket) At the end of his rope (at the end of his tether) Figure out (work out) Fixing coffee (making coffee - except a man of his class would not know how. That's what servants are for) I really wasn't much count (I really wasn't very good at it) I'll go see him (I'll go and see him) Came by the house (called) Say... (I say...) Hickory (not a British tree) Hands-on (far too modern a phrase, he'd have said something like "involved with the day-to-day running of the business") Cuffs of his pants (his trouser turn-ups) All of this is very distracting and irritating to the British reader. Why set a book in Victorian England if you're not going to write in the idiom of the country and period you've chosen? Second, the social setting is inauthentically portrayed. Our hero and his aristocratic lady friend are far too chummy with their servants. A maid would most certainly not be taken on in a house where her fiancé worked. A gentleman would not keep spare clothes in his library and change into them himself: he would go to his bedchamber where his valet would assist him. His handmade leather boots would not have let in the wet. And if he replaced them, they would be leather-soled, not cork (Trollope wrote a whole comedy episode about Lady Glencora buying cork-soled shoes - just not good enough quality for the aristocracy!) So much just didn't ring true. And finally, the book was just too tedious to finish. It dragged on and on and never seemed to get anywhere. I gave up three-quarters of the way through from sheer apathy. So all in all, a very disappointing read. It really rates a 1.5 star. I don't hate it, but it's not ok either.

  4. 4 out of 5

    ᴥ Irena ᴥ

    For some reason this book didn't grab me the way I expected. It could mean that my first and only reading slump isn't over or that this was simply a miss for me (which is strange because I like this genre). Whatever the reason, I found the characters' conversations annoying and some of ordinary things the protagonist does are way too detailed (having tea, breakfast and such). Still, take this with a grain of salt. For now it was simply an okay story. I might return to this book when I am in bett For some reason this book didn't grab me the way I expected. It could mean that my first and only reading slump isn't over or that this was simply a miss for me (which is strange because I like this genre). Whatever the reason, I found the characters' conversations annoying and some of ordinary things the protagonist does are way too detailed (having tea, breakfast and such). Still, take this with a grain of salt. For now it was simply an okay story. I might return to this book when I am in better mood for it. This doesn't mean I'll give up on the series though.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Khanh, first of her name, mother of bunnies

    I'm trying to immerse myself in this series of a noble Victorian armchair sleuth and a Watson-esque butler, and I just can't get into it. This is the first book in the series, and I've since read two sequels, and they were just progressively worse. I kept reading hoping to get more...anything from the series, more background information, more insight into their characters, some kind of depth. There's nothing. No passion, no greatness, just a dull, lukewarm historical whodunnit.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Richard Derus

    Rating: 3.5* of five I submerged into 1865 London with surprising ease in this debut mystery. I was irked by lots of little picky detail boo-boos, but charmed by the characters of Charles Lenox and Lady Jane Grey, who *should* be called Lady Deere or the Dowager Countess of Deere, but whatever. Their interspecies friendship, as the Victorians would see it, is charming and sweet and very vibrantly drawn. Its charm makes me feel all squooshy inside. And that's the real reason I've only rated this 3. Rating: 3.5* of five I submerged into 1865 London with surprising ease in this debut mystery. I was irked by lots of little picky detail boo-boos, but charmed by the characters of Charles Lenox and Lady Jane Grey, who *should* be called Lady Deere or the Dowager Countess of Deere, but whatever. Their interspecies friendship, as the Victorians would see it, is charming and sweet and very vibrantly drawn. Its charm makes me feel all squooshy inside. And that's the real reason I've only rated this 3.8 stars. (Still getting used to the decimal star system.) I think the mystery was nicely handled, and I think the period details were very well sprinkled in the book. I like the idea of the sleuth...a humane, likable Sherlock Holmes...and I appreciate the historical "huh" moments the character, born about 1827, feels as he moves through the huge, modern, scary metropolis. I feel the same way whenever I go to New York City. It's a function of middle age, this peculiarly acute recognition of time's passing and its effects on the world around us. But in the end, it was all more fun to read than it is to remember, which I barely do. A good entertainment, but not a fine one; a decent day's read, but nothing to keep me up late finishing. Faint praise, I fear. Not bad. Don't break a leg getting to the store to buy it.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Sara Poole

    I’m just a little bit in love with Charles Lenox, the hero of Charles Finch’s charming debut Victorian mystery. Lenox is smart, decent, upstanding and oh, so devoted to the delightful Lady Jane. The two join forces to plumb the truth behind a young maid’s death. Finch writes with confidence and verve, drawing us into Victorian London without resorting to cliches. The plot moves along smartly, the resolution satisfies completely. Curl up with a cuppa; you’re in for a treat.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Obsidian

    This will be short cause I really loathed this book. It took me two days to get through. If not for the fact that a DNF does not count towards bingo, I would have done so at the 10 percent point. This book is tedious, boring, and overwrought somehow all at the same time. The main character is opposite day Sherlock Holmes. I really wanted him to reach a terrible end, but since this is the first book in a 11 book series, there was not much hope of that. I heard through reliable readers that the se This will be short cause I really loathed this book. It took me two days to get through. If not for the fact that a DNF does not count towards bingo, I would have done so at the 10 percent point. This book is tedious, boring, and overwrought somehow all at the same time. The main character is opposite day Sherlock Holmes. I really wanted him to reach a terrible end, but since this is the first book in a 11 book series, there was not much hope of that. I heard through reliable readers that the series gets better. I hope so. I read this for the "Darkest London" square since this is a mystery taking place in London during the Victorian age. The lead character is Charles Lenox. He is self proclaimed amateur sleuth who helps out the Yard from time to time. He has a Yard inspector that doesn't like him, a close friendship with a childhood friend, another friend who is a doctor with a drinking problem, and his butler is used as his runner for certain jobs he needs him to do. When his childhood friend and London neighbor, Lady Jane asks him to look into whether a former maid of hers was murdered, he does. Frankly, I never got a good reason why Lady Jane cared, but that is neither here or there. So off Lenox goes to stick his nose in and quickly deduces that the former maid (Prudence Smith) was poisoned. Hence the name "A Beautiful Blue Death." Lenox really is just a boring type of Sherlock Holmes. He fusses about being cold, his feet being cold, being wet, taking naps, how much toast to eat, his freaking tea, wine, scotch and soda, everything. I have never read so many boring descriptions about what a character was doing in one book before. Everyone in this book is a version of a character in a Sherlock Holmes novel. I refuse to list them and all the ways. The writing was blah. Reading that when X woke up, they stretched their arms, and thought about what they would have to break their morning fast. They rose from the bed and admired their pajamas which were silk and put their feet into soft slippers. Looking around the room, X admired a winter painting of London which he thought captured London as it's most beautiful when it was quiet and no people around. Blah. The whole book was like that. He literally took a paragraph to describe a terrible ass room that he needs to re-do. I just can't anymore. Skip this first book unless you want o know the main players for future books. The ending was a mess. It didn't make much sense. I think Finch is trying to set up Lenox having his own Moriarty and once again, good luck to him. Once we find out the guilty party it's like another 50-70 pages before the book ends. Maybe I am exaggerating, I don't care enough to open my e-reader to check.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Jessica Howard

    This is not a highly suspenseful mystery, but rather a quiet, Victorian, armchair-detective type book. I liked Charles Lenox, the main character, and his ruminations on the oddity of Victorian culture and the impossibility of getting properly made boots. I do think that some of the minor characters (most notably servants and those of lesser class) weren't sketched out fully, but it seems appropriate given the mindset of the era that a gentlemen would think of these types of people in broad sterot This is not a highly suspenseful mystery, but rather a quiet, Victorian, armchair-detective type book. I liked Charles Lenox, the main character, and his ruminations on the oddity of Victorian culture and the impossibility of getting properly made boots. I do think that some of the minor characters (most notably servants and those of lesser class) weren't sketched out fully, but it seems appropriate given the mindset of the era that a gentlemen would think of these types of people in broad sterotypes rather than specifics. Lenox's next door neighbor, Lady Jane, had formerly employed a maid named Prudence Smith who recently turned up dead. Lenox's investigation into the death of Prue, her current high-ranking government employer Barnard, and the other servants/guests in Barnard's house is interesting without ever approaching suspense. A second death complicates matters, and flusters Lenox, because the second body was his main suspect for the first murder. All in all the sense of time in the book is very successful, Finch has obviously done his research into the Victorian era. There are just a few moments, such as when Lenox is thinking about how beautiful the Parliament buildings are and how "no-one will ever care about Big Ben" that you get a sense of the modern author peeking through and poking fun, but mostly you can believe in Lenox's time and character.

  10. 4 out of 5

    BAM The Bibliomaniac

    Quite a charming little who-dun-it Amateur sleuth enamored with parliament and the architecture of the Victorian period has money to throw around and lots of confidantes to spy for him High class manners Deals with titles and servants I recommend for a light read or a break from the regular routine

  11. 4 out of 5

    Mary Gilligan-Nolan

    This is one I had recommended to me by a Goodreads friend and I would like to say a thank you for putting me on to this series. I really enjoyed it. It's a great old fashioned crime/mystery set in the late 1800's in London. A gentleman of leisure, Charles Lenox, who likes to dabble in solving crimes in his spare time, free of charge, as he is well set up financially. His life-long friend, Lady Jane Gray asks him to look into the death of her former maid, who has taken up a new position with anot This is one I had recommended to me by a Goodreads friend and I would like to say a thank you for putting me on to this series. I really enjoyed it. It's a great old fashioned crime/mystery set in the late 1800's in London. A gentleman of leisure, Charles Lenox, who likes to dabble in solving crimes in his spare time, free of charge, as he is well set up financially. His life-long friend, Lady Jane Gray asks him to look into the death of her former maid, who has taken up a new position with another wealthy house. Pru Smith is found dead in her bed and it looks like suicide by poisoning, but Lenox brings his friend along, Dr. Thomas McConnell to examine the body and it looks like Pru was murdered after all, by a rare poison that would be too expensive for a maid to get her hands on. It sets out what life in London was like for the rich and the poor and makes for an interesting read. As a mystery, it works well and keeps you guessing to the end. I look forward to following this series and am now waiting for Book 2. to arrive.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Susanna - Censored by GoodReads

    There are enough historical "whats" to get my attention, but 3 stars because the mystery is sufficiently competently done. However, Victoria was not, and was not referred to as, "Queen Empress" until made Empress of India, some 11 years after this book is set.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Natasha M.

    Do I have the words to describe how awful this book was? Would, if I could, give this book a lower rating than one star! It took me ages to finish (and only because I'm behind in the book reading challenge) and was not engaging. The only saving grace was that the chapters, for the most part, were short. In brief, what was so bad? Historical detail was bizarre and inaccurate, the lead character was a pompous ass who fancied himself an armchair Sherlock Holmes (and even came out with a few "you've Do I have the words to describe how awful this book was? Would, if I could, give this book a lower rating than one star! It took me ages to finish (and only because I'm behind in the book reading challenge) and was not engaging. The only saving grace was that the chapters, for the most part, were short. In brief, what was so bad? Historical detail was bizarre and inaccurate, the lead character was a pompous ass who fancied himself an armchair Sherlock Holmes (and even came out with a few "you've been at Barnard's House!"/"Why, however did you know?"/"I can smell lemon."/"Lemon?!"/"He uses lemon in his tea." In fact, I think the author himself thought he was penning the next Sherlock Holmes. No sir, you did not. The plot was trite and easy to figure out and unfortunately lacked any sort of charm of character development to make those short-comings acceptable. Don't get me started on the passages of useless, unnecessary information we were given for pages and pages as we were forced, as a reader, to breathe Charles Lennox's daily life with him. Without them, this book would've been a hundred pages shorter. The names of the characters were a little distracting as well... "Lady Jane Grey" (don't get me started on the etiquette of addressing peers) made me think of the poor 9-Day Queen and George Barnard made me think of George Bernard Shaw (playwright). Yes, I'm being petty now but a distraction is a distraction. Jane and George are common enough names but those were just (for me) unfortunate pairings. All in all, thank goodness I borrowed this book from the library and didn't pay good money for it. Library, you may keep it.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Kathy

    This book wasn't bad, it just wasn't interesting. There was no suspense and I often felt like the author was trying to interject his vast knowledge of English history but it just didn't flow with the story. I managed to finish it, but I won't be reading any more of the series. Just too darn dull.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Sandra

    3.5 - 4 stars. I usually enjoy more the historical aspects in this series than the mystery itself, but it is a very enjoyable combination.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Mona

    Pleasant Crime Novel, A Bit Soporific "A Beautiful Blue Death" had some good qualities, but I can't say it's one of my favorites. I think it was trying a bit too hard to be clever. Also the settings and characters were a trifle boring at times. They were a little too removed from everyday life to be entirely believable. British aristocrat Charles Lenox has inherited such a comfortable sum from his father that he doesn't need to work. He is an amateur detective, but amateur only in the sense of being Pleasant Crime Novel, A Bit Soporific "A Beautiful Blue Death" had some good qualities, but I can't say it's one of my favorites. I think it was trying a bit too hard to be clever. Also the settings and characters were a trifle boring at times. They were a little too removed from everyday life to be entirely believable. British aristocrat Charles Lenox has inherited such a comfortable sum from his father that he doesn't need to work. He is an amateur detective, but amateur only in the sense of being unpaid. He's actually very good at solving difficult crimes. He has his hands full when the body of housemaid Prudence Smith is discovered in the house of neighboring aristo George Barnard. Everyone (including Scotland Yard Inspector Exeter) declares the death must be a suicide. But Lenox has his doubts. There is all kinds of conflicting and puzzling evidence which makes it tough for Lenox to find the solution. There are a number of suspects, as a group of people has been staying at Barnard's large house. These include Barnard himself; his nephews, Claude and Eustace; a wealthy fat man, Potts; an unpleasant M.P., Duff; and a well liked but apparently broke man called Soames. Each suspect has an alibi. And Exeter is incompetent, as well as hostile towards Lenox. Lenox teams up with Dr. Thomas McConnell, a wealthy alcoholic ex-doctor, to examine the medical evidence. He gets help and support from others, including his brother Edmund, his highly intelligent and loyal butler Graham, and his close friend and neighbor Lady Jane Grey. I wasn't that surprised when the identity of the killer was revealed. (But part of this was due to the poor quality of the library MP3, which skipped ahead to the reveal, way ahead of time). But towards the end of the book another, more surprising, criminal is uncovered. The pace is slow and stately, as befits the lives of comfortable British aristocrats. Honestly, though the solution of the crime was clever, I was often bored. The characters were likeable, but not all that compelling, with the possible exception of the Scotsman, Dr. McConnell. I wasn't that interested in the life of the English aristocracy as it was depicted here---ball gowns, horseback riding, parties, and other activities of this group. Even the amateur scholars were boring, even though many of them had interesting specialties. This was a mildly pleasant read, but I'm not putting Charles Finch on my list of favorite authors just yet. James Langton's languid style of reading the audiobook was appropriate, but added to the overall languorous feeling of the novel.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Emily

    Friends, I have discovered an excellent new series. By far my favorite mysteries are ones where the detective drinks a lot of tea and does a lot of thinking; I secretly desire to be Miss Jane Marple when I grow up. Set during the days of Queen Victoria, A Beautiful Blue Death is a gem; it's thoughtful, detailed, funny, and engaging, and I didn't want it to be over once it actually was. Happily for me, there are several more books already published with another one coming out later this year. I l Friends, I have discovered an excellent new series. By far my favorite mysteries are ones where the detective drinks a lot of tea and does a lot of thinking; I secretly desire to be Miss Jane Marple when I grow up. Set during the days of Queen Victoria, A Beautiful Blue Death is a gem; it's thoughtful, detailed, funny, and engaging, and I didn't want it to be over once it actually was. Happily for me, there are several more books already published with another one coming out later this year. I love it when that happens! Anyway, the detective here is Charles Lenox, the second son of a well to do family who loves reading (especially about the Roman empire,) eating good food, drinking tea, taking baths, and planning trips to far away lands. His best friend in the world is Lady Jane Grey, a super sweet lady who has the same temperament and sense of humor as him; as the book goes on it's plain to see that Charles has feelings for Jane that go way beyond friendship. It's through Lady Jane that Charles comes to be involved in this case- one of Jane's former servants has died, and she doesn't share the opinion that it was a suicide. She asks Charles to investigate, and investigate he does, discovering way more than he thought in the process. Each page of this story was like a feast. There were so many great lines, great phrases, and interesting facts and descriptions that I was completely sucked in.This is a great example of my favorite kind of mystery, where lots of tea is consumed and lots of investigating is done. Forensics as we know it don't factor in; brainpower and observation get the job done. If you're a fan of Agatha Christie or P.D. James you're in for a treat. Overall Grade: A+

  18. 4 out of 5

    Hollie Bush

    The author owes a serious debt of gratitude to Dorothy L. Sayers. If you believe that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, then this book is downright effusive. The author is also a little too eager to demonstrate his mastery of historical trivia, which can take you out of the narrative - and wears a little thin as the novel progresses. That being said the book is a fun and charming historical mystery that will undoubtedly be enjoyed by those of us who love Dorothy L. Sayers, Sir Arthur The author owes a serious debt of gratitude to Dorothy L. Sayers. If you believe that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, then this book is downright effusive. The author is also a little too eager to demonstrate his mastery of historical trivia, which can take you out of the narrative - and wears a little thin as the novel progresses. That being said the book is a fun and charming historical mystery that will undoubtedly be enjoyed by those of us who love Dorothy L. Sayers, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Agatha Christie, et al. The book hits all the right notes for a good mystery and neatly plays into the one thing that ties together all types of mystery lovers - an innate need to see justice prevail. It so rarely happens in real life. Personally I'm not a fan of the blood and gore type of vigilante justice and prefer the more reasoned and gentlemanly justice that can only be found in novels these days. The book is well written by someone who knows how to use language, but doesn't feel the need to show off. There is also the added benefit of an intelligent and resilient female character who is loved for her strength, and strength of character, and not just for being pretty and rich. She promises to become more of a central character in future books in this series (the author has already written the sequel which I plan to read soon) and I hope that her early promise is not squandered. "A beautiful Blue Death" is a good first novel, careful readers will note a few inconsistencies in the plot, but they can be forgiven since the author has managed to create such a charming and comfortably familiar tableau. I hope the second novel improves on the first, while retaining all of the charm.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Kate Howe

    At last - a mystery series set in the Victorian era that I enjoy! This checked a lot of my boxes as far as mysteries go with a not too convoluted murder, compelling characters, easy writing, cozy settings, and even foreshadowing of a possible romance. Definitely looking forward to the next in the series!

  20. 5 out of 5

    Michelle

    This was a quick read, and quite enjoyable. I love a good series, and I couldn't resist checking out this mystery when I saw book 5 of the series on the New Books shelf at my library. The author is an American who graduated from Yale, and then got a master's degree at Oxford in England, where he now resides. I have developed an affinity for all things English, especially historically English, and in a small way I like to imagine that I was meant to be born in England in a different time entirely This was a quick read, and quite enjoyable. I love a good series, and I couldn't resist checking out this mystery when I saw book 5 of the series on the New Books shelf at my library. The author is an American who graduated from Yale, and then got a master's degree at Oxford in England, where he now resides. I have developed an affinity for all things English, especially historically English, and in a small way I like to imagine that I was meant to be born in England in a different time entirely. In this way, I feel that I have some understanding of the author, who has shown in his path his own affinity for England. I enjoyed reading about having tea every day, learning about the relationship of the main character and his butler, the grand ball that was held (and all the delicious courses that were served!), the hints at a budding romance with a childhood friend, and of course the mystery of the story, which was quite good. Now, I'm looking forward to the next book in the series!

  21. 5 out of 5

    Jen

    My thanks to NetGalley and St. Martin's Press for an eARC copy of this book to read and review. It started off well, then went slowly downhill. And I do mean SLOWLY. Oy, I got to 50% and was too bored to read the rest to get to the murderer and the why so skipped to the end. I wasn't wowed by the big reveal. The diction of the characters and the historic "facts" were not in keeping with the time. It was rather jarring and took me out of the book on more than one occasion. Also, the author has ne My thanks to NetGalley and St. Martin's Press for an eARC copy of this book to read and review. It started off well, then went slowly downhill. And I do mean SLOWLY. Oy, I got to 50% and was too bored to read the rest to get to the murderer and the why so skipped to the end. I wasn't wowed by the big reveal. The diction of the characters and the historic "facts" were not in keeping with the time. It was rather jarring and took me out of the book on more than one occasion. Also, the author has never met a comma he didn't like and included as many of them as he could in each sentence. And I'm sorry, but for the author to give the main character hero the same first name as the author himself smacks slightly of ego and leaves a bad taste in my mouth. All in all, the book wasn't horrible, but it didn't have a lot going for it. Not one I would recommend. Two stars because I got to 50% before I skipped to the end.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Cheryl

    The first book in a mystery series starring amateur sleuth Charles Lennox, a Victorian gentleman living in London. The mystery involves the apparent suicide of a maid who used to work for Charles' friend, Lady Jane. Suspecting murder, Charles, who has solved a few mysteries before, is asked to look into the matter. He has help from his brother (a member of Parliament), his valet, and his physician friend (who is interested in forensic pathology). The characters were interesting enough to make me The first book in a mystery series starring amateur sleuth Charles Lennox, a Victorian gentleman living in London. The mystery involves the apparent suicide of a maid who used to work for Charles' friend, Lady Jane. Suspecting murder, Charles, who has solved a few mysteries before, is asked to look into the matter. He has help from his brother (a member of Parliament), his valet, and his physician friend (who is interested in forensic pathology). The characters were interesting enough to make me seek out the next book in the series. The plot was well-paced at the beginning and the end, but the middle dragged a bit. Being the author's first book, hopefully this won't happen in the next one.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Laurel Hicks

    There are too many things this American writer does not know about Victorian England. The book does not ring true. It is his first; perhaps he will improve. I hope so, because I do like the idea of an aristocratic amateur sleuth who reads Trollope and Shakespeare while sipping his tea. Oh wait—isn't that Lord Peter?

  24. 5 out of 5

    Peggy

    I 'read' this on audiobook I got from the library and I adored it! James Langton was the narrator and his voice and accents added so much to the atmosphere of the era. Full of wonderful descriptions of the Victorian era and lifestyle. The lead character Charles Lenox is a great , well rounded character. There is the hint of a budding relationship with his long time great friend widow Jane Grey and of course his butler Graham is his friend and crime solving partner. His brother is the one who inh I 'read' this on audiobook I got from the library and I adored it! James Langton was the narrator and his voice and accents added so much to the atmosphere of the era. Full of wonderful descriptions of the Victorian era and lifestyle. The lead character Charles Lenox is a great , well rounded character. There is the hint of a budding relationship with his long time great friend widow Jane Grey and of course his butler Graham is his friend and crime solving partner. His brother is the one who inherited the seat in Parliament and we get glimpses into the political scene of the time thru him. Scotland Yard Inspector Exeter is portrayed as such a bumbling oaf. I was amazed at how stupid he could be. Of course this is set at the time forensics and finger printing etc. was just beginning to come into play. Lenox was intermittently helped and hampered by Exeter, who always wanted to be in control. Of course Lenox is the one who solves the crimes and always gives Exeter the credit. Scottish Dr. Thomas McConnell is a great friend of Lenox and married to heiress Victoria Phillips (Toto) and no longer 'practicing' medicine. His help is invaluable to Lenox. I also enjoyed the relationships between this couple and Lenox and Jane Grey. This book was a little unique in that we find the culprit with still several chapters to go. In the last few chapters we are lead thru the hows and whys of the crime and then what happened to the criminal after. I enjoyed that too. Mr. Finch really wrapped the story up nice and thorough for us. I am really looking forward to reading the rest in the series and pleased to see my library has all the books. Lenox loves to sit by his fire with tea and toast and read more than anything else and somehow Finch delivers that image so well that as you read you feel like your sitting by the fire with your feet up. I'm sure that will be the case with each book in the series.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer

    How did the editor not catch a major error like how long the maid had been in her new job? According to two characters, she's been there for 3 months, while another, who had met her at the new place of employment, had known her for almost a year. More problematically, the characters are 21st century morals and ethics in the mid-19th century. And how does a man wear a dinner jacket to the biggest event of the London season in 1865? And last, how, after making a big deal at the beginning of the bo How did the editor not catch a major error like how long the maid had been in her new job? According to two characters, she's been there for 3 months, while another, who had met her at the new place of employment, had known her for almost a year. More problematically, the characters are 21st century morals and ethics in the mid-19th century. And how does a man wear a dinner jacket to the biggest event of the London season in 1865? And last, how, after making a big deal at the beginning of the book about how expensive and difficult it is to obtain the poison that killed the maid, can the big reveal end up using that point as a total throw away, and barely worth mentioning? Picky, maybe, but these incongruities are the type of things I find jarring in a book, and take me out of the enjoyment of the story. Some of these issues may be first novel problems that smooth out as the series continues, but I have too many other things to read to take the time to find out.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Min

    I'm not quite sure what it was about this book that bugged me. Frankly, I'm surprised I finished it at all. There was just something lacking in the prose - that certain something that makes a good book really come together and catch you up in the tale - that was lacking in this one. I felt as if I was reading the outline of a novel and only some of the major plot points had been fleshed out. There was far too much of Charles' boots and tea; instead of acting as lures into the life of the charact I'm not quite sure what it was about this book that bugged me. Frankly, I'm surprised I finished it at all. There was just something lacking in the prose - that certain something that makes a good book really come together and catch you up in the tale - that was lacking in this one. I felt as if I was reading the outline of a novel and only some of the major plot points had been fleshed out. There was far too much of Charles' boots and tea; instead of acting as lures into the life of the characters, I felt as if I was being lectured about why I should find it fascinating (not that the author was lecturing - it just felt that way). Many passages were too heavy-handed for my tastes, and some were too skimpy in the details. All in all, it felt very uneven. I found myself skimming the last 100 pages or so just to get it done with. Well before that point, however, I realised that I really didn't care who the murderer was or why it was done.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Kim

    The book completely failed to interest me in the plot or characters, but the worst part was that I kept stumbling over the language. Finally, on page 72, I came across two sentences that made me put the book down forever. "But at least, he thought with grim satisfaction, he was ahead of Exeter, who was still twisting his whiskers and thinking the girl had destroyed herself while his underlings stroked his ego." AND "He read quite contentedly until eight, when he had to dress for supper with his fri The book completely failed to interest me in the plot or characters, but the worst part was that I kept stumbling over the language. Finally, on page 72, I came across two sentences that made me put the book down forever. "But at least, he thought with grim satisfaction, he was ahead of Exeter, who was still twisting his whiskers and thinking the girl had destroyed herself while his underlings stroked his ego." AND "He read quite contentedly until eight, when he had to dress for supper with his friend Lord Cabot, who shared with him a sportsman's interest in politics, and a few friends, at their club, the Travelers." COMMA OVERLOAD KILLED MY DESIRE TO READ THIS BOOK DEAD.

  28. 5 out of 5

    MaryG2E

    I presume this author thought he was writing some clever satire on relations between the social classes in 1860s England. At least I hope this was his intent. If he were serious, this is indeed a tragedy of a novel. Because the book is super-saturated with all sorts of appalling snobbery and class conscious jibes. While the kernel of the plot has some appeal, the tone and style of the writing do not, and I, in all conscience, could not finish this awful book.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Joan

    “A Beautiful Blue Death” is the first book in the Charles Lenox Mysteries and I am so very pleased to have discovered a wonderful new British cozy series. With its richly drawn characters and intricate plot set in 1860’s London, I felt transported back in time to the Victorian England. The main character, Charles Lenox s somewhat of a staid character, he is a decent man who goes against convention of his era and class by investigating murders. But what fully rounds out Lenox and his existence ar “A Beautiful Blue Death” is the first book in the Charles Lenox Mysteries and I am so very pleased to have discovered a wonderful new British cozy series. With its richly drawn characters and intricate plot set in 1860’s London, I felt transported back in time to the Victorian England. The main character, Charles Lenox s somewhat of a staid character, he is a decent man who goes against convention of his era and class by investigating murders. But what fully rounds out Lenox and his existence are two important secondary characters, his butler Graham and his close childhood friend, Lady Jane Grey. One scene that endeared Lenox to me was a flashback of his university days wherein as a wealthy, upper-crust student Lenox has a nodding acquaintance with a young Graham. One evening Graham, in desperation rushes into young Lenox’s room asking for help. Without hesitation Charles agrees, follow Graham to a small cottage wherein Graham’s sick father lay dying and the local doctor has refused to see the sick man. Lenox goes to bring the reluctant doctor, but it’s too late and he finds a devastated Graham holding his deceased father’s hand. Eventually, when Lenox discovers that Graham has no home to return to, he simply states that Graham should work for Lenox’s father, thereby providing employment and a home for this young man whom many of the elite class wouldn’t have given a second thought to helping. This act cemented Charles Lenox as a man of compassion and honor in my mind. is a young man in employ at Oxford. I adore Lady Jane, she also bucks tradition, as a widow who staunchly vows never to remarry, with her unconventional friendship with Lenox. She and Graham provide Lenox with support and security. I also like Lenox’s friendship with Dr. McConnell, a deeply flawed character and gifted doctor, Lenox's unwavering support to stand by his friend. The murder mystery had its twist and turns. I felt awful for James, grieving fiancé of the murdered woman. The poor man should have not have suffered and left to grieve for his unfaithful fiancé. I agree with lady Jane that Lenox should had told James’ of Prue’s amorous deceptions so that James could have made a more informed decision to process his grief, understood Prue for who she really was instead of his ideal of her, then move on. The author took his time with building and revealing his characters and setting in the well-researched and authentic first book. Finally, after stumbling through more than a few disappointing mystery books, I have found a wonderful new British cozy series to savor.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Ann Parker

    Enjoyed this book thoroughly. Looking forward to reading the next in the series.

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