Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Home by Nightfall by Charles Finch

First Sentence: It was a blustery London morning in the autumn of 1876, wind and rain heavy in the trees lining Chancery land, and here, damn it all, stood before Charles Lenox something that nobody should have to tolerate before breakfast

A famous foreign pianist disappears from his dressing room, and Lenox’ detective agency is called in to find him. The pressure is on as a former partner of his firm seems to be hijacking clients and trying to solve this case before him. However, Lenox must leave the case to his partners and spend time with his brother in their childhood home. Things become interesting when a local insurance agent’s home is broken into, odd items in the town start disappearing, and a mysterious, rather disquieting, chalk figure appears in several places.

What a wonderful opening when the author immediately places you into the environment, and introduces you to the primary character with whose emotions one can empathize. The inclusion of the story of the Brontë sisters, is delightful as well as it establishes the time and place.

Finch as created such a fine ensemble of characters, particularly with Lenox’ detective agency, that one becomes involved with them even if one has not read previous books. They are fully dimensional with backstories that are both brief, yet complete.

Yet it’s Finch’s voice that brings you into the story with descriptions, facts, information, emotion and just the right touch of humor. It is style of language—“Lenox had known him for forty years, since he was a swottish, pedantic boy at the village school, and more or less the same look of circumspection had been on hi fact the whole time. He had never in that time evinced any vivacity…”—and the details of the period which make it fascinating. Small details such as one being able to read a newspaper were one not able to afford to buy it, an interesting note on the importance of hats for men, buying a ‘fish slice’ as a wedding gift, and the history of “the Riot Act,” that bring the period to life.

The dialogue has a very natural flow with the language appropriate to the social rank and education of the character with that between Charles and his brother, showing the closeness and east of their relationship—“Edmund, you know my days here are yours.” Edmund nearly smiled. “In that case, I happily transfer ownership of them to Mr. Hadley, at least temporarily—and hope that he will accept mine as well, for I am exceedingly curious about what on earth all of this can mean.” One can also enjoy Lenox’ time with his young daughter.

Lest you are concerned that here is not much mystery to the books, rest assured. Yet Finch’s approach is gentler and encompasses far more than just the crimes, including a wonderful passage of Charles’ musings on those who have passed.

Home by Nightfall” has a very good plot with more than one case being handled, plenty of questions, twists, and revelations that change the course of the investigations. Each of the cases is brought to very satisfactory conclusions and leaves the reader anxious for the next book.

HOME BY NIGHTFALL (Hist Mys-Charles Lenox-England-Victorian/1876) – VG
Finch, Charles – 9th in series
Minotaur Books – Nov 2015

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