Saturday, September 1, 2012

The Fleet Street Murders: Review

The Fleet Street Murders is the third novel in Charles Finch's  series of Victorian-era mysteries starring gentleman detective Charles Lenox. The story begins on Christmas in 1866.  It's a pleasant day for Lenox who is still basking in the glow of having recently become engaged to his long-time friend and love of his life, Lady Jane Grey.  But the day is not a pleasant one for two journalists across town.  Within minutes of each other, Winston Carruthers and Simon Pierce are stabbed and shot (respectively).  The police quickly track down suspects, but Lenox and his assistant Dallington believe there must be more to the story than what the police have found so far.  Soon, one of the suspects is dead by hanging--meant to appear a suicide, but proved to be murder--and then the investigating officer is killed as well.  Lenox becomes convinced that someone is directing the action from behind the scenes--someone with a bigger motive than just removing two bothersome journalists.

The investigation is made difficult for Lenox by several "distractions" in his life.  Worries about his betrothal, Lady Jane repeatedly assures him that she does want to marry him--but needs time.  Time for what?  Worries about his friend Thomas and his wife Toto who have recently lost their unborn child.  And worries about his run for Parliament in the northern town of Stirrington.  He's got a lot on his mind--and feels guilty taking time for any of his obligations in lieu of any of the others.

And the distractions tell a bit.  This story doesn't seem to run quite as smoothly as the first two and it's definitely not as good as the second novel in the series. Finch does have a very firm grasp of characterization and he gives every character from Lenox down to the pub owner in Stirrington their due.  You definitely feel like these folks are real people.  It makes it a lot easier to overlook the flaws in the mystery plot.  Not obvious holes--just the lack of smoothness (with all the rushing about from London to Stirrington and around Stirrington and then back to London) and the slightly disjointed method of story-telling.  But an interesting mystery and a good, solid three star outing.

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