It's London in 1876, and the whole city is abuzz with the enigmatic disappearance of a famous foreign pianist. Lenox has an eye on the matter – as a partner in a now-thriving detective agency, he's a natural choice to investigate. Just when he's tempted to turn his focus to it entirely, however, his grieving brother asks him to come down to Sussex, and Lenox leaves the metropolis behind for the quieter country life of his boyhood. Or so he thinks. In fact, something strange is afoot in Markethouse: small thefts, books, blankets, animals, and more alarmingly a break-in at the house of a local insurance agent. As he and his brother to investigate this small accumulation of mysteries, Lenox realizes that something very strange and serious indeed may be happening, more than just local mischief. Soon, he's racing to solve two cases at once, one in London and one in the country, before either turns deadly. Blending Charles Finch's trademark wit, elegance, and depth of research, this new mystery, equal parts Jane Austen and Charles Dickens, may be the finest in the series.
Set in the autumn of 1876, Finch's capable ninth Victorian mystery (after 2014's The Laws of Murder) takes gentleman sleuth Charles Lenox from London to Sussex, to try to console his brother, whose wife has died after a sudden illness, but he's soon distracted by a bizarre puzzle. Before a local insurance salesman, Arthur Hadley, entered his house one evening, he saw a face at his downstairs window, but no one was inside, and an unsettling chalk drawing of a young girl was sketched outside his front door. In a subsequent strange incident, a fake report of a fire in a nearby town lures Hadley away from his house. Back in London, everyone is agog at the seemingly impossible disappearance of a German pianist, Muller, from his dressing room, whose only exit was under constant observation. Despite Scotland Yard's lack of success in finding Muller, the police have yet to consult Lenox and his enquiry agency. Well-defined characters enhance the intriguing plot lines.