First Sentence: A late winter’s night in London: the city hushed; the revelers half an hour in their beds; a new snow softening every dull shade of gray and brown into angelic whiteness.
Charles Lenox has retired from Parliament and returned to detective work, opening an agency with three others. Business has fallen off, and unfavorable statements have been made about the agency in the press, one by Inspector Jenkins, a long-time Scotland Yard ally. When Jenkins is murdered, Inspector Nicholson, with whom Lenox had also worked, comes to hire the agency’s help. Of particular interest to Lenox is that Jenkins body is in front of the house of the Marquess of Wakefield, one of those on Lenox’s list of criminals who have, so far, evaded his capture.
The first sentence alone provides a sense of the wonderful sense of place created by Finch. His period details are just as well honed. Unfortunately, a very fine first chapter is spoiled with the inclusion of a completely unnecessary portent which immediately takes the reader out of the moment the author just spent several pages constructing. Happily, it was the only portent.
Finch has created a very good, well-rounded cast of characters. They are fully dimensional and have lives beyond the actual mystery. He also brings new readers up to speed very quickly. He writes small children very well and the interludes of domesticity add a charm and sense of reality to the story. By Lenox having a daughter, it enables him to contemplate the roles of women in present, and in future, society. Though his friendship with his former butler, we learn a bit about the inner workings of Parliament during that time.
Even though the reader is quite certain the tides of fortune will, at some point, change, it’s nice to see the protagonist realistically going through a difficult time. That Lenox realizes he is in a situation different from anything he has previously experienced adds a maturity to the character and the story.
Finch has a wonderful way with words that add a richness to the story; “…big windows overlooking Chancery Lane. Dozens of raindrops were dawdling down them, moving infinitesimally until one would decide to fall all at once in a split second, as if dashing for a forgotten appointment.”
“The Laws of Murder” is a well done historical mystery with a good plot twist and a very satisfactory climax.
THE LAWS OF MURDER(Hist Mys/Enquiry Agent-Charles Lenox-London-1876) - VGFinch, Charles – 8th in series