In what promises to be a breakout in Charles Finch's bestselling series, Charles Lenox travels to the New York and Newport of the dawning Gilded Age to investigate the death of a beautiful socialite.
London, 1878. With faith in Scotland Yard shattered after a damning corruption investigation, Charles Lenox's detective agency is rapidly expanding. The gentleman sleuth has all the work he can handle, two children, and an intriguing new murder case.
But when Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli offers him the opportunity to undertake a diplomatic mission for the Queen, Lenox welcomes the chance to satisfy an unfulfilled yearning: to travel to America. Arriving in New York, he begins to receive introductions into both its old Knickerbocker society and its new robber baron splendor. Then, a shock: the death of the season's most beautiful debutante, who appears to have thrown herself from a cliff. Or was it murder? Lenox’s reputation has preceded him to the States, and he is summoned to a magnificent Newport mansion to investigate the mysterious death. What ensues is a fiendish game of cat and mouse.
Witty, complex, and tender, An Extravagant Death is Charles Finch's triumphant return to the main storyline of his beloved Charles Lenox series—a devilish mystery, a social drama, and an unforgettable first trip for an Englishman coming to America.
Set in 1878, Finch's entertaining 14th mystery featuring Charles Lenox (after 2020's The Last Passenger) finds Lenox, "probably the preeminent detective in all of England, professional or amateur," dealing with the consequences of his exposure of three Scotland Yard chief inspectors being behind an armed robbery and numerous other crimes. The scandal imperils Benjamin Disraeli's government, and the politician implores Lenox to travel to the U.S. during the trial and allow his testimony to be provided in written form to minimize press sensationalism. Lenox reluctantly agrees, but demands full access to the file on the case of Harold Wallace, who was stabbed to death in his home a few blocks away from Lenox's own London residence. Lenox has doubts that the man charged with the crime, Wallace's butler, is guilty. Upon the investigator's arrival in the States, his skills are called upon by William Stuyvesant Schemerhorn IV of Newport, R.I., after an 18-year-old girl, whom his son had been courting, was found dead on a beach, apparently from a head wound. Finch effectively juggles the various plot threads. This is one of the series' better recent entries.
Did not want this to end.
It takes a lot of creativity and talent for an author of a series to keep bringing back his main characters, show them in entirely different situations, allow the characters to grow and develop, yet retain whatever it is that drew you to them in the first place. I’m really impressed that this newest one may be my favorite so far and excited that it looks like the series will continue. I really like that Charles Finch stumped me again—I should have seen it coming but didn’t. Only sad that it ended.
Is there no literary justice? Two stars for a predictable and unsatisfying mystery. Finch’s thinly veiled red herrings sprinkled throughout cannot distract the reader from the underdeveloped antagonist who somehow vanishes off the pages at story’s end leaving both reader and protagonist detective Sir Charles Lenox befuddled. No literary justice to be sure.