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February 15, 2021

An Extravagant Death by Charles Finch ~ a Review

by Donna Huber

I will admit that it was the cover that drew me to this book. It is just so beautiful and I could only hope the story within its pages was just as good. An Extravagant Death is the 14th book in the Charles Lenox Mystery series. I haven't read the previous books, but I didn't have any trouble jumping right in.

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An Extravagant Death
February 2021; Minotaur Books; 978-1250767134
audio, ebook, print (288 pages); historical mystery
Charles Lenox is a private detective in 1870s London. He is the second son of an aristocrat so PI isn't exactly an expected career, however, he has sat in Parliament. Plus he made a most promising marriage. And recently he had a career-making case - routing out corruption in Scotland Yard. It is a case though that could prove embarrassing to the current Prime Minister and he wishes Lenox was far away during the trial. And America is about as far away as he can get. Charles is torn. As a young man, he dreamed of world travels, but now with a small child and infant daughter, not to mention a wife he truly loves, he is torn. Lady Jane, though, knows her husband's desire and though she loves that he would give up a dream trip to be with her and their daughters she bids him go so that there may never be a grain of regret between them.

What promised to be a royal sight-seeing trip, meeting with police forces and private groups interested in crime-solving, is quickly derailed as he is summoned to Newport to help solve the murder of a society darling.

I don't read many books set in the 1870s, and when I do they are even more rarely set in the United States. Therefore, I know little about the Gilded Age of America. It was a time of great new wealth, yet poverty was quite prevalent, particularly among the Irish immigrants. It was interesting to see this time period in America through the eyes of an Englishman who is visiting for the same time. I liked his observations.

"In Delancy Street, or so was my impression, each person seems to wake up sure that this is the day their fortune will be made. And every so often no doubt they're right. Such is the undeniable charm of America."

I wondered if this observation is still true. I assume it must be in some instances as people still scrape together their last pennies and often brave treacherous travels to come to the United States.

I also thought his observations of how present the Civil War was still. An Extravagant Death is set in 1878, so it had only been 13 years since the end so I wouldn't think that it would be so unusual for people still referring to the war or displaying Union regimental items. I'm sure there was still some mistrust of who was loyal to the Union during the war and who may have had dealings with the Confederates, even in these decidedly northern states. Many men had made their fortunes in shipping and industrial materials during those times.

And one other thing I really enjoyed about Lenox's observations is where idioms and phrases originated. I love that kind of thing so learning about the origin of backlog and grapevine was interesting.

I enjoyed the mystery as it took the reader through the who's who of Newport society. It's no doubt that readers will recognize the names of Aster and Vanderbilt. But we also get glimpses of those who regularly live in Newport - the townspeople and fisherman. While often we assume these poorer individuals would be resentful of these wealthy interlopers. It seems for the most part that they recognize that their wealth does trickle down to them - the parties offer locals job opportunities that may bridge the gaps when fishing was lean.

About halfway through I started suspecting one particular character who didn't seem to be on Lenox's radar. I was hoping I was wrong as I really liked the character. There are a number of characters I liked and as it is unlikely for many of them to turn up in future novels (or previous novels for that matter) as they are all Americans, I was glad that we got some idea of what the future holds for them. 

I enjoyed Charles Finch's writing style. There was plenty of observational and descriptive text but it was complementary to the plot. It was never heavy or too drawn out. It was perfectly balanced to give the reader a full picture of the scene. 

If you are a fan of historical mysteries, then you definitely should pick up this book. I know that seeing it is the 14th book in the series could be daunting, but don't worry about not starting at the beginning. I often forgot that it was part of a series, though I'm happy that there are more books for me to read.

Buy An Extravagant Death at Amazon

Donna Huber is an avid reader and natural encourager. She is the founder of Girl Who Reads and the author of how-to marketing book Secrets to a Successful Blog Tour.

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