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5.0 out of 5 starsGreat plot, but even better character development
Reviewed in Canada on November 22, 2016
Another great Charles Lenox mystery. I really enjoyed this one - the balance between the two mystery plots (both were very well done in my opinion) and the character development was excellent. I loved the way Charles and Edmund's relationship was explored in much greater detail. Until this book, Edmund has been a charming but fairly mild character - in Home by Nightfall, we get to see the real him as a three-dimensional person. The depiction of his grief is both painful to read and somehow cathartic too, but I particularly enjoyed the tension between him & Charles when Charles oversteps. It beautifully depicts the complex nature of a relationship that is at once one of friendship, blood, feudal hierarchy and professional links.
4.0 out of 5 starsCharles really is a jerk in this one
Reviewed in Canada on March 4, 2020
I liked this book very much because, perhaps oddly, I quite disliked Charles Lennox in it. Charles ends up being quite irritatingly thick in the mystery in his home town. Of course, it’s difficult for aristocratic men to understand the things that young girls and women must put up with, even these days. I can only hope that this is a lesson he won’t forget. Charles was most rude and thoughtless about Edmund’s emotional state, after losing Molly. And I was quite thrilled to see Edmund strike back at him in a flare of temper. One of the most annoying episodes was when he invited 2 girls to Hougton’s ball and when Edmund remonstrated him, he said, dismissively, that it’d be good for Lady Houghton to have something to complain about. Of all the high handed and inconsiderate things to do. She probably spent hours pouring over the guest list to ensure she had invited the correct people, of an appropriate class. And he was well aware of how complicated this type of thing could be with Jane working so hard on the luncheon that the 3 royals were coming to. I think we saw Charles’ character develop to a great extent during this story. I look forward to seeing a wiser, more mature Charles in future books. And that he will treat his daughter as a person, rather than a ‘female’ as much as is possible in the Victorian age.
4.0 out of 5 starsA very good read that leaves one anxious for the next book.
Reviewed in Canada on November 10, 2015
First Sentence: It was a blustery London morning in the autumn of 1876, wind and rain heavy in the trees lining Chancery land, and here, damn it all, stood before Charles Lenox something that nobody should have to tolerate before breakfast
A famous foreign pianist disappears from his dressing room, and Lenox’ detective agency is called in to find him. The pressure is on as a former partner of his firm seems to be hijacking clients and trying to solve this case before him. However, Lenox must leave the case to his partners and spend time with his brother in their childhood home. Things become interesting when a local insurance agent’s home is broken into, odd items in the town start disappearing, and a mysterious, rather disquieting, chalk figure appears in several places.
What a wonderful opening when the author immediately places you into the environment, and introduces you to the primary character with whose emotions one can empathize. The inclusion of the story of the Brontë sisters, is delightful as well as it establishes the time and place.
Finch as created such a fine ensemble of characters, particularly with Lenox’ detective agency, that one becomes involved with them even if one has not read previous books. They are fully dimensional with backstories that are both brief, yet complete.
Yet it’s Finch’s voice that brings you into the story with descriptions, facts, information, emotion and just the right touch of humor. It is style of language—“Lenox had known him for forty years, since he was a swottish, pedantic boy at the village school, and more or less the same look of circumspection had been on hi fact the whole time. He had never in that time evinced any vivacity…”—and the details of the period which make it fascinating. Small details such as one being able to read a newspaper were one not able to afford to buy it, an interesting note on the importance of hats for men, buying a ‘fish slice’ as a wedding gift, and the history of “the Riot Act,” that bring the period to life.
The dialogue has a very natural flow with the language appropriate to the social rank and education of the character with that between Charles and his brother, showing the closeness and east of their relationship—“Edmund, you know my days here are yours.” Edmund nearly smiled. “In that case, I happily transfer ownership of them to Mr. Hadley, at least temporarily—and hope that he will accept mine as well, for I am exceedingly curious about what on earth all of this can mean.” One can also enjoy Lenox’ time with his young daughter.
Lest you are concerned that here is not much mystery to the books, rest assured. Yet Finch’s approach is gentler and encompasses far more than just the crimes, including a wonderful passage of Charles’ musings on those who have passed.
“Home by Nightfall” has a very good plot with more than one case being handled, plenty of questions, twists, and revelations that change the course of the investigations. Each of the cases is brought to very satisfactory conclusions and leaves the reader anxious for the next book.
HOME BY NIGHTFALL (Hist Mys-Charles Lenox-England-Victorian/1876) – VG Finch, Charles – 9th in series Minotaur Books – Nov 2015
Charles Lennox's detective business is finally starting to flourish and his family life with wife Lady Jane and young daughter Sophia grows sweeter every day. He's almost too busy, especially when it affects his usual lunches with his beloved brother Edmund, who is lately extremely depressed after the death of his wife. But Edmund has something else to occupy one day: strange thefts in the village where his country house is located, and he asks Charles to come down for a few days to look into it. But Lennox and his agency are investigating, like every other private inquiry agent in the city of London, the disappearance of a famous German pianist, Muller. How will he do both at once?
Let's say Charles manages as always. The country-set portion of the story is very entertaining—the mystery involves an insurance agent who had an unusual chalk figure left upon his property and then who was lured away from his home about a false claim; a mystery which finally ends with the death of the local mayor—especially when the townspeople keep assuming Charles has come back to Markethouse to stay. The country mystery has a little in common with something that happened in a book I read later this month, and a twist of Charles' mind with the evidence his partners have gathered brings also the solution to the disappearance of Muller. I thought the country mystery as well as the solution much superior to the city story, and enjoyed the atmosphere of the little market town. Finch is making fewer of those anachronistic errors I used to hate in the earlier books, so I am well satisfied with this entry.
Reviewed in the United States on November 16, 2015
This is imo the best Charles Lenox book yet. Perhaps because Lenox is back in his boyhood territory and I could feel the connection to the place and inhabitants. Or, it could be because his brother's feelings of grief and his empathy for them, were better drawn than the emotions in some of the other books. For whatever reason, I found this book more enjoyable. The stock characters are there as well as some new ones, and well done. I was glad that Finch did not make the two stories come magically together at the end, like so many authors do, but kept the separate threads flowing nicely. I didn't give this five stars because I still find that the relationship between Lenox and his wife is a bit blah. However, it is fun to see how enchanted he is with his daughter. I do have one bone to pick, but it is personal. In the 1800's, horses under two years old were not normally started under saddle, and they certainly weren't ridden hard across country or jumped. Even today, horseman have better sense than jumping a two year old colt. But, that is personal and shouldn't stop any one from reading and enjoying this book.
5.0 out of 5 starsWell-plotted, perceptive, and sensitively written
Reviewed in the United States on January 14, 2016
Gentleman detective Charles Lenox tackles two separate mysteries in HOME BY NIGHTFALL, the ninth installment of the series. The detective agency he now runs with his former protege Lord John Dallington and the astute Miss Polly Strickland (THE LAWS OF MURDER) is finally on firm financial ground, but Charles has new worries: his brother Edmund is deeply depressed following the death of his wife Molly. When Edmund returns to the family home to take care of pressing estate business, Charles refuses to let him go alone; the agency will simply have to do without him for a little while. This means leaving a most perplexing case, the disappearance of a celebrated German pianist from his dressing room following a concert, in the hands of his colleagues. But as Charles discovers when he and Edmund arrive in Markethouse, mystery can be found even in a small market town.
I should know by now to expect the unexpected from Charles Finch. Both mysteries are well-plotted and surprisingly difficult to solve, but where another author would have tied them together, Finch allows each to play out independent of the other. As in THE FLEET STREET MURDERS, Lenox is torn between two duties, two competing interests–a circumstance very common in real life but rarely seen in mystery novels, at least when it comes to the main character. He balances the two as best he can, relying on the newspaper and telegrams from Dallington to keep him informed about the London case while he investigates the odd occurrences in Markethouse.
Charles is, as always, observant, compassionate, logical and imaginative, and those qualities allow him to solve not only the Markethouse mystery but the pianist’s disappearance. I was troubled by the ultimate resolution of the Markethouse conundrum, for it’s not entirely clear what justice is under the circumstances, let alone whether it has been served. Lenox seems to share my disquietude, and it’s a mark of Finch’s skill and courage as an author that he doesn’t shy away from the difficult questions in favor of neat, black-and-white endings.
I’m more impressed with this series with each book I read. They’re like beautifully rendered pen-and-ink drawings: precise, sensitive, and detailed, conveying thought and feeling delicately but with depth and maturity. There’s a slightly ascetic quality to them, as there is to Lenox himself – contained, controlled, but never cold or distant. Finch’s plots are rarely predictable and often fiendishly difficult to figure out, though once you have the solution the pieces fit together like clockwork. His sensitivity toward his characters extends beyond Lenox to all the characters, and he never allows any of them to become static; major life changes, such as Lenox’s marriage and his entry into and eventual departure from Parliament, occur in the lives of his secondary characters as well. And always, the historical details are impeccably researched. In short, this is a series well worth reading.
REVIEW ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED on The Bookwyrm's Hoard blog (11/09/15) FTC DISCLOSURE: I received a review copy from the publisher. All opinions are entirely my own.
There is a theme of loss through this book that is both terribly sad and poignant. There is an amazing contrasting storyline that shows how different the loss of a wife affected the working class vs the upper class. For a Christmas story the themes are quite dark, yet the settings and historical details are so rich it is still amazingly beautiful. I can’t get enough of Lenox.
5.0 out of 5 starsAnother Excellent Mystery by Charles Finch
Reviewed in the United States on November 19, 2015
In this ninth offering in the Charles Lenox Victorian mystery series, the author has challenged his detective to solve two major mysteries as well as a smaller one. A sudden family loss brings Charles and his elder brother Edmund to the country and the family estate, Lenox Hall. While Charles attempts to lighten his brother's burden, a villager hands him a mystery to solve. Arthur Hadley, a traveling insurance salesman, returns home one evening to discover that someone has drawn a frightening chalk figure of a young girl on his door and broken into his house -- twice. The conundrum? Nothing was stolen the first night, but the second, a bottle of sherry has gone missing. He asks Lenox to look into the matter. In the meantime, two situations keep Charles's partners in London busy as well. In one, an eminent German pianist disappears from his theatre dressing room, and in the second one, some of their clients have been stolen by a rival detective, LeMaire. The clues to the mysteries are liberally spread throughout the novel. An astute reader can resolve the puzzles along with Lenox, but it is really more rewarding to let them unfold as the detective peels back the layers. The development of character in this novel is more of a focus than in the previous books, and the back stories that flesh out the brothers Lenox are carefully limned to the pleasure of the faithful readers of the series. Charles encourages Edmund to help him in his endeavors, remembering how his work has always intrigued his brother. It seems to be a welcome diversion. The author carefully chooses apt figurative language such as the picture of Edmund . . . "spooning in a small noiseless snowfall of sugar. . ." into his tea, as finely wrought example of alliterative metaphor as one can find in literature. In addition, the author continues his tradition of unearthing intriguing historical sketches that complete the setting of the story. He shows Charles reminiscing with Edmund about their childhood by asking him if he remembers hearing about the death of King William IV from the mail driver. These asides help the reader envision the time and place and embrace the characters as though they were personal friends. The symbolism of the cover mirrors and the title should be left to the reader to discover for himself. The subtlety of these elements also helps to fill in the questions about plot , character, and theme. This novel should surprise and satisfy the mystery aesthete. Enjoy!