Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Book review: The Laws of Murder, by Charles Finch

London, January 1876: Charles Lenox’s new detective agency has just opened for business. Having left Parliament to revive his favorite pastime on a professional basis, he hopes his previous successes and old contacts will attract new clientele. However, when he and the agency start receiving bad press, he worries he’s become a liability and is letting his three partners down.

Then, when a member of Scotland Yard pulls him in to solve the killing of one of their own, an erstwhile friend and ally of his, Lenox finds himself involved in a trio of interlinked mysteries that echo back to an incident from his past. The scene where the body is found, a beautiful street leading into Regent's Park, appears disturbingly familiar to him.

Lenox is a gentleman whose views reflect his time. A devoted husband who adores his young daughter, Sophia, he heeds the rules of the era but also wonders at the logic of a society that will let him vote but not her. He is a proud, careful man who hesitates to tell his wife, Lady Jane, about his career woes but still feels much better for having shared his problems with her. Lenox also struggles with being “in trade” – for the agency to survive, he needs to be paid for his work. All of these facets combine to make him a very human character.

The plot unfolds swiftly, and the tension runs high. One shocking revelation follows another, but Lenox untangles the multiple strands in a logical fashion; the story moves with assurance that all will be solved in the end. There’s a fair amount of wit, too, especially thanks to his French partner’s go-getter nephew, who speaks amusingly imperfect English.

The Laws of Murder features Lenox’s eighth outing, but with sufficient backstory woven into the initial pages, it stands alone with confidence. If you haven’t been introduced to this exceptional series before, this is the prime time to discover it.

The Laws of Murder will be published on November 11th by Minotaur/St. Martin's Press ($25.99 / Can$29.99, 290pp).  Thanks to the publisher for sending me an ARC.  For US readers interested in winning a copy for themselves, see the giveaway form below the author's guest post yesterday


  1. From "The Education of Hyman Kaplan" on, "amusingly imperfect English" has always gotten to me.

    1. I have to say that this aspect of the book was done very well, since there can be major pitfalls in making a foreigner's speech the subject of a joke... but he's just a great character all around and pulls his weight in the investigation.