By October 13, 2011 0 Comments Read More →

A Beautiful Blue Death

Back on September 18th I recommended The Hound of the Baskervilles by Arthur Conan Doyle and mentioned how it was the first part of September’s crime and mystery book discussion at my library.  As our benchmark author for our Great Thinking Detective subgenre, it worked out quite well in the discussion.  The most oft repeated comment was how well written this classic is which warms the cockles of the heart of a promoter of old fiction like me. 

Our contemporary Great Thinking Detective was Charles Lenox, the star of a new series of books by Charles Finch.  Lenox is an aristocrat living in Victorian England who would like to be traveling the world but instead keeps getting drawn into mysteries.  While the story is not narrated by a faithful chronicler, Lenox does have a male companion who he bounces ideas off just like Holmes. 

The basic plot of the first book in the series, A Beautiful Blue Death, revolves around a close personal friend of Lenox named Lady Jane.  A former servant in her house, Prudence Smith, has relocated to another sophisticated establishment to work alongside her fiance when Prudence is murdered.  Lady Jane asks Lenox to investigate and along the way it becomes evident to the reader that Lady Jane and Lenox have unresolved feelings for each other.  This underplayed romance adds spice to the book but the real strength is the way the life of the idle rich in Victorian society is displayed with skill by the author.  This book is a wonderful historical.

The number one thing that this book does is recapture the puzzle aspect of detection fiction.  Clues and suspects abound and the homage to Holmes works in all aspects as well.

When I finished the book I was completely satisfied as a reader.  The issue for me as the discussion leader was that I did not think it would work as a discussion title.  The book is fantastic entertainment but I thought it might fall short in terms of engendering discussion.

Wrong.  Not only did the group get the Holmes connection, they ran a self-guided path through the novel that filled our time completely.  So now I can feel safe in recommending this lighter, traditional mystery with great characters, a complicated plot and a love story as well to all who need it for a book discussion.

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About the Author:

Gary Niebuhr is the author of Make Mine a Mystery (2003), Caught up in Crime (2009), and other readers' guides to mystery and detective fiction. He was a Booklist contributor from 2008-2014.

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