A Beatiful Blue Death is a Victorian Puzzle Mystery

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Cover for A Beautiful Blue Death by charles finchA Beautiful Blue Death is a good mystery for reading curled up on the couch in front of a fire or sitting out on the beach enjoying the sun. After a day out in the frigid weather, Charles Lenox, Victorian gentleman and part-time detective, is enjoying sitting in front of the fire and reading A Small House at Allington. Then his good friend and neighbor Lady Jane sends an urgent summons that takes him back out in the cold. One of her former housemaids has been found dead in her new place of employment, and Lady Jane wants to be sure her death is properly investigated. Both the maid’s new employer and the authorities are inclined to rule the death a suicide, but Lenox is sure it was murder. Following the clues leads only to a confused tangle. On the one hand, Prudence was juggling multiple lovers. On the other hand, there is nothing to indicate that any of them wanted her dead, and plenty to indicate that a good deal of apparently unrelated plotting is going on.

Finch writes a complex and multi-layered mystery with plenty of red herrings and odd twists, plus an unusual use of poisons and clues. The multitude of plots keeps everyone busy untangling the mess in a well-plotted, well-paced mystery. The character of Lenox draws from earlier mysteries; like Lord Peter Wimsy, Lenox is independently wealthy and has a loyal manservant who is also a companion in sleuthing, and like Sherlock Holmes, he has a brother busy in the government. He is different enough, though, that these touches read as homage. He has enough idiosyncrasies to make him stand out as an individual, but not so much that one wonders how he function, and his quiet friendship with Lady Jane makes the book a pleasure to read.

Prose and character development are straightforward. The sentences clear and to the point with no flourishes. While characters’ motives are left for Lenox to figure out, they are otherwise pretty much as presented. Lenox himself is interesting but not deeply developed, with his motives and thoughts apparent on the surface. In this way, the writing very strongly resembles much of Agatha Christie’s work. Much of the book’s interest lies in the plot—which is well-done—and in the setting. Victorian England is almost always fun to visit, at least in books.

A Beautiful Blue Death is a well-structured mystery where the focus is on the plot rather than on deep psychological development. It is a good book for reading at odd moments or for curling up with on a rainy day.

A Beautiful Blue Death was published by Minotaur Books onJune 26th 2007. Look for it on Amazon. Or, you may be able to find it at your local bookstore or library.

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