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Monday, September 26, 2011

Review: The September Society

Title: The September Society
Author: Charles Finch
Page Count: 320 pages
Publisher: Minotaur Books
Genre: historical mystery
Copy for review compliments of the public library

In the small hours of the morning one fall day in 1866, a frantic widow visits detective Charles Lenox. Lady Annabelle’s problem is simple: her beloved son, George, has vanished from his room at Oxford. When Lenox visits his alma mater to investigate he discovers a series of bizarre clues, including a murdered cat and a card cryptically referring to “The September Society.” Then, just as Lenox realizes that the case may be deeper than it appears, a student dies, the victim of foul play.

What could the September Society have to do with it? What specter, returned from the past, is haunting gentle Oxford? Lenox, with the support of his devoted friends in London’s upper crust, must race to discover the truth before it comes searching for him, and dangerously close to home.

This book took me awhile to get through, although that's not a bad thing. Rather, the pacing of this book was much more leisurely, with several different stories going on all at the same time. We have the mystery element concerning the missing Oxford students, Charles dealing with his feelings for Lady Jane, and the appearance of a young man who wants to be apprenticed to Charles to someday become a detective in his own right. There's a lot going on, and each story gets time in the spotlight, so things are happening in the background even though we may not be seeing them right at the moment.

Charles has finally decided to ask Lady Jane to marry him! He's finally realized that he loves her and wants to be married, and he can't think of anyone he'd rather be married to. He's not sure of his reception, as they've never spoken of these issues before, but it's always in his mind. He's not sure how to go about making sure that Lady Jane says yes, though, and isn't sure when to make his move, which adds a little bit of suspense to the story that isn't directly related to the mystery.

The mystery is definitely different from the one in the first book. At first, it isn't completely obvious that a crime has been committed at all. A young man has gone missing from Oxford University and hasn't checked in with his mom in quite some time. Oxford happens to be Lenox's alma mater and he welcomes the chance to go back and visit a place that has such fond memories for him. He isn't sure there's anything specific that he can do to allay concerns about the missing student; specifically left clues in the student's room indicate that something is wrong but Lenox will be dipped if he can figure out what it is.

As time goes on and other events occur, it's apparent that there's bigger forces at work and that someone did indeed do bad, bad things in Oxford; the police and Lenox begin working together to try to determine who it was and why they targeted a student who, by all accounts, never did anything bad to anyone. The solution lies in a decades old crime and a secret society- The September Society.

As with the first installment, the language, character development, and historical details were superb.  I enjoyed reading about daily life as a university student during this period as well as the way that the university was divided up.  It added depth to the story and definitely held my interest.  I'm really looking forward to reading the rest of this series- it's a perfect choice for the blustery cold days that are ahead.

Overall Grade: A
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