Monday, January 5, 2015

An Old Betrayal

On a spring morning in London, 1875, Charles Lenox agrees to take time away from his busy schedule as a Member of Parliament to meet an old protégé’s client at Charing Cross. But when their cryptic encounter seems to lead, days later, to the murder of an innocuous country squire, this fast favor draws Lenox inexorably back into his old profession.

Soon he realizes that, far from concluding the murderer’s business, this body is only the first step in a cruel plan, many years in the plotting. Where will he strike next? The answer, Lenox learns with slowly dawning horror, may be at the very heart of England’s monarchy.

Ranging from the slums of London to the city’s corridors of power, the newest Charles Lenox novel bears all of this series’ customary wit, charm, and trickery—a compulsive escape to a different time.
(From Goodreads)

            In the latest installment of the Lenox Detective series, Charles Finch evokes the time-tested feel of a “Sherlock Holmes” mystery with his novel “An Old Betrayal”.  The year is 1875, and the opening scene plants the reader in the chambers of the British Parliament.  Charles Lenox, a former, yet highly regarded detective, has left his investigative vocation for a less exhilarating position as junior Lord of the Treasury in the House of Commons. When he receives word that his protégé, Lord John Dallington, needs assistance with a pressing new case, Lenox jumps at the chance to delve back in to his once well-loved profession.  
            On the day that the duo is to meet with their new client, Dallington falls ill, leaving Lenox to take the meeting on his own. But when the meeting falls through due to enigmatic circumstances, Lenox is filled with more questions than he began with.  Little does he know that that initial cryptic failed-consultation will open up a Pandora’s Box of intrigue, scandal, and death that will take him to the doorstep of the Monarchy. A centuries old grudge transforms itself into a contemporary mystery for Lenox and Dallington, instilling horror and fear in the heart of the very Queen herself.
            I am always hesitant to read a piece of fiction that is a part of a series without out first reading all of the books up to that point. On the suggestion of a patron, I broke my own tenet, and picked up “An Old Betrayal”, the 7th book in the Charles Lenox mystery series, and proved that there are always exceptions to the rule. Although I plan to go back and read the first 6 books in the series, I was pleasantly surprised that “An Old Betrayal” is a fantastic and action-filled standalone that is reminiscent of writing style of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Again, as with most extensive book series, character development is generally complete by book 2 or 3, but in the case of Lenox and Dallington, Charles Finch continues to reveal nuances and attributes that make even the reader new to the series feel as though they haven’t missed anything by starting part way through.

            As with any mystery, a well-defined, yet slowly revealed plot is essential to keeping the attention of the audience. In “An Old Betrayal”, Finch used humor, wit, and period-appropriate vernacular to introduce the plot to the reader in a subtle and colorful fashion, while simultaneously creating two sub-plots. At first, the sub-plots seem completely disconnected from the original crime, but upon further investigation, the connections between them are undeniable and shocking, allowing the reader to believe they have solved the mystery alongside Lenox and Dallington. Oh, but then comes the twist! As with any mystery worth its salt, Finch draws the reader into a solvable situation only to drop a bombshell that will completely catch them off guard. 

           Overall, I must say, I am impressed with the writing skill and attention to detail that Charles Finch demonstrates in this installment of the series. “An Old Betrayal” has given me a new found appreciation for mystery writing that I had all but given up on as a genre. While Hollywood and the rest of the world may be enamored by blood, guts, and sexual intrigue that tend to overshadow a lack of plot, Charles Finch gives the reader a good old fashion murder mystery jammed packed with style, flair, and finesse that has been missing in this genre for quite some time. I can’t wait to read the rest of the series. I give this book 4 stars!

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