Wednesday, October 16, 2013

An Old Betrayal by Charles Finch

First Sentence: The long green benches of the House of Commons were half-deserted as the evening session began, scattered with perhaps a few dozen men.

Charles Lenox has a very full life.  He has a wonderful wife, infant daughter and a seat in Parliament. Although it is a very busy time in Parliament, Charles Lenox agrees to meet with a former colleague’s client. But it’s the murder of a country squire that returns Lenox to his former profession of investigation, at least part time. Lenox finds this to be much more than a simple murder. Instead, it’s a case which could impact the nation.

Finch opens with a very good introduction to the main characters, providing both background and a clearly established sense of time and place. There is also an unusual set up right from the start that adds just a touch of humanity and humor to the story. Asking about the outfit worn by an 18-month old child, Lenox says “I have never understood this strange tradition that has us dress our small boys in martial clothing. This one seems to be wearing a regimental jacket.” Rather than describing the details of the season, he has Lenox equate Spring, not with nature, but with the events and posturing of the London Season. That’s not to say his traditional use of description is not evocative, for it assuredly is.

Finch’s details on the period, both in appearance and in conveying the spoken, and unspoken, rules of society are exacting. “…Toto burst into tears, burying her face in Jane’s quickly encircling arms. In a woman of slightly lower birth it would have been a distasteful spectacle. Rules soften toward the top, however.” He includes wonderful bits of historical detail, such as how Charing Cross obtained its name and the etymology of “hogwash.”

The dialogue also contributes to the sense of time as it reflects the speech of the period. There are actually historical figures deftly woven into, and critical to, the plot. Again, the details are very impressive although I do suspect some liberty was taken with Campbell’s Soup being available in England during that time.

What was rather fascinating was watching Finch, and ergo Lenox, balance both the investigation, the demands of his personal life and those of Parliament. The mystery keeps one involved and provides wonderful twists along the way with a motive clearly linked to actual events in history.

An Old Betrayal” is a very good read and entry to a wonderful series which should be read in order.

AN OLD BETRAYAL (Hist Mys/Lic Invest-Charles Lenox-England-1875) – VG
Finch, Charles – 7th in series
Minotaur Books, 2013

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