A Beautiful Blue Death is a murder mystery, set in Victorian-era London society. This is the first book by this author, and the first time I have essayed his stuff. Well-plotted, multiple potential suspects, nicely unobtrusive love interest, interesting enough to keep me reading in bed all morning to finish it despite the alluring attractions of breakfast.
Our hero is Charles Lenox, society gentleman amateur detective – characterisation strongly reminds me of a cross between Sherlock Holmes and Anne Perry’s Thomas Pitt. Urbane, clever, educated, comfortably situated, just enough humility and humour to offset being a born nob. Here, he is called in by long-time friend Lady Jane Grey (oh how I snickered when I read that) to investigate the purported suicide of one of her ex-maids. In a plot thickened with poison, the Royal Mint, Parliament and financial dealings (including a potted history of the South Sea Bubble), our chap finds his solution with the help of friends and the hinderance of Scotland Yard.
And yet… I find myself unable to give this the high praise of “it’s a great read”. Indeed, I find my recommendation hovering around “ok, nice way to spend a rainy day”.
“Why so platypup?” I imagine you saying. Allow me to inarticulately lay out a reason or two;
- Charles Finch (author) is quite openly attempting to create an ongoing series. His protagonist is set up as having previously investigated crimes large & small, which are referenced in a fairly heavy-handed manner. This in addition to the lazy serial-setup of referring to future cases, situations and characters. Don’t get me wrong – I love serialised novels as much as the next prole. I just resent the blatant attempts to hook me into an ongoing relationship when I haven’t got halfway through the first book and am yet to decide if I want to take this any further. Ahem.
- There are a number of character strings set up here, that I would happily have explored further. But by all that is merciful, why set ’em up and then not use them? Grrrr. Again, this author is trolling for return readers.
- While the prose itself is pretty tight, there are a couple of points where (for me) unnecessary verbiage is employed in referencing future events/outcomes for the baddies. I cannot explain why I have a twitch about being given the entire history and explanation of events as though I were a crotchety 5-year-old – I just do.
Never the less – despite the shortcomings mentioned above I will in fact go back for a second helping from this author. The teaser chapter at the end of the edition I have is enough to lure me into looking out for the next installment, The September Society. There was sufficient good in this first date to agree to a second.