First Sentence: For a little more than an hour on the May morning in 1850, the only sound in the flat in St. James’ Square was the rustling of newspapers, punctuated occasionally by the crisp shear of a pair of sharpened scissors through newsprint.
Twenty-three-year-old Charles Lenox, with the assistance of his valet Graham, is working to establish himself as a detective but is having little success until an anonymous writer’s letter appears in the newspaper. The author claims to have committed the perfect murder, and that he will kill again. After insinuating himself into the Yard’s investigation, and with locating a second victim, the killer threatens directly threatens Lenox and those he holds dear.
Establishing a sense of time from the start moves one from being a reader to feeling part of the story—“There were two men at the highly polished breakfast table by the window… Both were too intent upon their work to glance out…at the panoramic view of the soft spring day; the shy sunlight; the irregular outlines of the two nearby parks, lying serene within the smoke and stone of the city; the new leaves upon the trees, making their innocent green way into life, on branches still so skinny that they quivered like the legs of foal.”
The introduction of Lenox and Graham defines their relationship and expands on the feeling of being a participant. One is also introduced to Elizabeth, Lenox’ friend, and to Finch’s wonderful voice and wry humor.
It is nice getting to know the young Lenox and his family. The banter with his mother and housekeeper allow for lightness against the darkness of the plot. It is also nice to see how he developed as a detective.
The information on the distinction of the classes is worked in very cleverly through a tactful conversation with Graham—“We were smacked on the hand if we wrote crookedly, at Harrow, with the chalk. In its chalk-holder, a great long wooden rod.” “Sir?” Lenox elaborated. “Well, it’s only at the free schools that one is taught to write line upon line.” Learning how the name of Scotland Yard came to be is an interesting bit of history. Still, one has to be amused at Lenox’ irritation at the ungrammatical headline—“Nevertheless, the headline had managed an error in its scant seven words. On the Thames River – doubtful, Lenox thought, that anyone had been murdered on the Thames River.”
The case itself is intriguing, particularly with the second victim. There is an interesting twist related to the killer and the victims. The climax is exciting and very clever.
“The Woman in the Water” is a delightful look into how it all began. Finch plays fair with the reader, but the clues are subtle and easy to miss, particularly with the emotional aspect of the story demanding our attention.
THE WOMAN IN THE WATER (Hist Mys-Charles Lenox-London-1850) - VG
Finch, Charles – Series PrequelMinotaur Books – Feb 2018