Saturday, November 07, 2015

Book review: Home By Nightfall by Charles Finch

It’s the autumn of 1876, and ten months after the events in The Laws of Murder, gentleman detective Charles Lenox finds his attention pulled in multiple directions. All of London is absorbed by the curious disappearance of a German pianist from the theatre where last performed. It appears at first to be a classic locked-room mystery, and Lenox knows that if his agency finds Herr Muller’s whereabouts, the public accolades they’ll receive will mean more business.

Family obligations take precedence, though. A responsible man who senses when he’s needed, Lenox opts to follow his older brother, Sir Edmund, back to Lenox House in Sussex, to keep him company after the untimely death of his beloved wife, Molly.

With its hallmarks of traditional English country life – the “lovely green springy Sussex turf," a centuries-old Saturday market, and the tall spire of St. James’s overlooking the town – Markethouse would be a calm respite from the fast-paced life in London, if not for some odd events. A local insurance salesman, hearing that Lenox is in town, reports seeing someone in his house and finding a disturbing figure drawn in chalk on his stoop. That’s not all, of course.  Events escalate from there.

Lenox’s upper-class upbringing gives his investigations a deliberate approach; one has the sense that he knows what he’s doing. The storyline incorporates gentle humor at appropriate times. So many townspeople congratulate Lenox on moving back to his childhood home for good that after a point, he charmingly decides to give up correcting them. As is his habit, Lenox decides to take charge, meeting a number of interesting townspeople: charwomen, the ultra-competent mayor, and an elderly woman who serves as the town’s institutional memory; all towns deserve to have such a resource!

In addition to the separate mysteries (it isn’t giving anything away to say that there aren’t any contrivances that intertwine them), the novel’s highlight is the insight it provides into the brothers’ close relationship: the terrible loss that Edmund internalizes, and the ways in which Lenox supports him at the most painful time of his life. These people truly care about one another, which makes it easy for readers to care for them as well.

Home By Nightfall, book 9 in the Charles Lenox mystery series, is published by Minotaur this week ($25.95/C$29.99, hb, 294pp).  Thanks to the publisher for approving my NetGalley access.


  1. All of us over 50 are repositories of institutional memory!

    1. That's one nice thing about growing older: the accumulation of lots of knowledge that others find useful.

      I have a few years left to go. Hope I'm ready. :)