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Saturday, August 20, 2011

Review: A Beautiful Blue Death

A Beautiful Blue Death (Charles Lenox Mysteries)Title: A Beautiful Blue Death
Author: Charles Finch
Page Count: 324 pages
Publisher: St. Martin's Minotaur
Genre: historical mystery
Copy for review compliments of the public library

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?

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+
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