Thursday, January 30, 2020

The Last Passenger by Charles Finch

First Sentence:  On or about the first day of October 1855, the City of London, England decided it was time once and for all that Charles Lenox be married.
In this third, and final, prequel Charles Lenox is still working to establish himself as an enquiry agent.  Asked to visit the scene of a gruesome murder, he finds someone has gone to extraordinary lengths to remove anything which might lead to the victim being identified.  Although Inspector Dunn blames the murder on gangs, Lenox convinces Sir Richard Mayne, now Commissioner of the Police, to let him assist with the investigation.  On a personal front, Charles is having to fend off his female relatives and friends who are determined to find him a suitable wife.
It's lovely to have an opening which makes one smile, as this one does. It's also nice that, even for those of us who follow the series, Finch provides an introduction of Lenox, his situation, appearance, and ambition, as well as other major characters, including Lady Jane and her husband, Lord Deere.  Neither does Fitch overlook the secondary characters.  The way in which Finch introduces them, including the members of Lenox's household, is seamless.  No long explanations, yet we have a sense of each character's personality.  In fact, some of them are among the most interesting, particularly freed slave Josiah Hollis from Atlanta, and a young newsboy. 
One appreciates Finch's voice and that it has something of the formality of the period in which the book is set--"Hemstock strolled in without a care in the world.  You had to hand him that much:  He had insouciance."
The plot is nicely divided between the investigation and Lenox's personal life.  The repartee between him and his older brother Edmund is delightful. His courtship of Miss Catherine Ashbrook provides a delightful excuse for quoting Pride and Prejudice and a lesson in the history of the idiom "mind your p's and q's." 
Finch perfects the balance of providing information on the slave trade, including discussion of the treatment of slaves, but keeping it a part of the plot, rather than the focus of it. It is interesting to see our history through British eyes. Yet an encounter which makes one cringe is Lenox taking Hollis to a doctor who proclaimed--"He was not expert in their kind."
This is the transitional book for Lenox showing his passing into maturity both in his life and his business.  A conversation between Lenox and Hollis is thoughtful, enlightening, and causes one to reflect.  Another conversation with Jane illuminates the reason why marriage for love often wasn't the priority for women of the period. Both are examples of excellent writing.
 "The Last Passenger" is a wonderful book.  There are well-timed, well-done plot twists.  The logic behind Lenox's deductions is clever, yet not overly contrived. Rather than being focused on suspense, although that is there, it is a book that speaks to injustice, maturing, and friendship; true friendship.  The end, particularly, stays with one long after closing the book.      
THE LAST PASSENGER (HistMys-Charles Lenox-England-1855) - Ex
     
Finch, Charles - 3rd prequel
      Minotaur Books - Feb 2020

3 comments:

  1. I'm glad you enjoyed this one. It's not easy to balance giving a good sense of history, time, place, etc.., while at the same time telling an interesting story with interesting characters. I think that's a challenge Finch meets well in his series, and I'm glad you see that here.

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  2. Would you recommend starting reading this series with the first prequel or with the original first book?

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    1. Hi Jane. Since all three of the prequels are now available, I'd do ahead and start with those.

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