Review copy was received from NetGalley. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
An Extravagant Death by Charles Finch
Series: Charles Lenox Mysteries #14
Published by Minotaur Books on February 16, 2021
Genres: Historical Fiction, Mystery
Amazon, Audible, Libro.fm, Barnes & Noble, Apple
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 a letter arrives with an unexpected invitation, he's unable to resist the call of an old, 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 suicide of the season's most beautiful debutante, who has thrown herself from a cliff. Or was it a suicide? Her closest friend doesn't think so, and Lenox, sacrificing his plans, travels to the family's magnificent Newport mansion in the guise of an idle English gentleman. What ensues is a fiendsh game of cat and mouse.
After being the driving force behind the bust of biggest corruption scandal of the year, Charles is tired. He simply wants to spend time with his family and recuperate, but his life turns surreal when he ends up among the Knickerbocker Set and Nouveau Riche of New York and Newport during the glittering Season of America’s Gilded Age… Just in time for murder.
An Extravagant Death is the fourteenth of the Charles Lenox historical mystery series that each present a fresh mystery while the story of the characters progresses forward through the whole series making them best read in order.
In An Extravagant Death, Charles leaves his own world and the author nailed it when he not only presented a different country and society through Charles’ eyes, but painted America’s Post-Civil War and Gilded Age so detailed I felt I was there seeing it all beside Charles. It was intriguing seeing Charles trying to solve a mystery when some of the culture layered with upper American society was quite confusing to him. I enjoyed glimpses of their way of life particularly the old Dutch wealthy Knickerbockers who were the American blue bloods next to the new Money Aristocracy like the Astors and Vanderbilts.
Each book in the series, including this one, is a wonderful dichotomy of Charles’ personal journey and his detective work. One could feel his weariness. He’s burnt out when he takes the Prime Minister’s not so subtle hints to make himself scarce during the firestorm he stirred up when he exposed the rot within Scotland Yard. He is of two minds about wanting to follow his dream and travel, but feeling that he needs to be home to see his two little girls growing up and spending time with his wife. There is an edginess to him as he works to solve the case as a result and a bittersweet tone to the whole story.
As to the mystery, Charles must get past the blank faces and closed doors of those who know more than they realize, don’t want their secrets drawn out, or are wary of the Englishman who is not one of them. Oddly enough, I figured out the who, why, and how quite early. Not because I’m brilliant, but simply because I latched on the person early on and saw only mounting evidence as collaboration. The part that surprised me was at first I was sad because I didn’t want it to be this person, but later saw I was not feeling all that bad about it. In fact, I kinda wished for a nasty end for this villain.
The last few chapters had me with my heart in my throat and I couldn’t have put the book aside for anything. Things were left in an interesting spot. I’ll be curious to see what comes next. It feels like either the end or a new season of the series is upon us. In any event, I can heartily recommend this one to historical mystery lovers who like a smart, gentleman-detective and a fab cast of characters surrounding him.
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