Sunday, September 3, 2017

The Fleet Street Murder (Crime Fiction Review Reprint)

The following reprinted review originally appeared at BookLoons in 2009.

The Fleet Street Murders by Charles order for
Fleet Street Murders
by Charles Finch
Order:  USA  Can
Minotaur, 2009 (2009)
* * *   Reviewed by Tim Davis

This highly recommended Victorian mystery opens on a winter evening in 1866 when two London journalists are murdered. But as far as the police are concerned, the incidents seem unrelated since the apparently coincidental murders are separated by time (5 minutes), geography (different parts of the city), and modus operandi (different weapons and different circumstances).

Part time sleuth and full time gentleman with political ambitions, Charles Lenox finds himself drawn into the two cases by a friend in the police department. Lenox begins to suspect that two killers with a single motivation were responsible for the murders. As the early evidence begins to point to the journalists' unique connections with a notorious traitor's trial and execution, the police surprise Lenox when they move quickly to arrest one obvious suspect.

Meanwhile, Lenox's attentions are divided between politics (as he campaigns for a seat in Parliament), romance (as his betrothed becomes increasingly reluctant to proceed with the marriage), and crime (as the police, in Lenox's view, are determined to follow a trail of seductively obvious red herrings).

Then, when foul play catches up with the suspect, when a second suspect is identified and apprehended, and when cryptic evidence implicates others, Lenox knows that the police are on the wrong trail in the case. He agrees with a friend who says, 'It's all fearfully complicated.' In the end, though, Lenox will make a shocking discovery that underscores a simple proposition: never trust your first impressions.

Full of Victorian era details about politics, society, and criminology, The Fleet Street Murders, a deftly plotted mystery with first-rate characterizations, is the third installment in Charles Finch's superb series of historical whodunits.

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  1. R.T.--I had read the first one in the series-A Beautiful Blue Death. I thought it had a certain Victorian era charm to it. The romance began in this novel, but I see Finch is going to drag it out for a while, perhaps until readers began complaining.

    1. Fred, you point to an intriguing problem with series: the delicate balance between readers' expectations and readers' weariness. I confess that I often weary of series somewhat quickly. Exceptions include Dexter's Morse novels (there were too few of them), Doyle's Holmes stories, and Hillerman's southwestern mysteries.

    2. Another exception, Fred: Simenon's Maigret --each a compact treasure.

    3. R.T.--agreed. A sign the author has quit at the right time is the unhappiness of the readers at finding there will be no more. Dexter, Doyle, Simenon, Hillerman are good examples. I would add Ingrid Black and Michael Gregorio to your list. Gregorio is a slight exception because they just began a second series which doesn't sound as interesting as the first. Perhaps I should give it a chance and read one.

    4. Fred, thanks for mentioning the husband and wife team "Michael Gregorio." I read and admired the early series but know nothing about anything more recent. Ingrid Black doesn't ring any bells. I'll check into her work.

    5. R.T.--There were only four in the first series by the Gregorios. Ingrid Black is another husband and wife writing team. They live in Belfast. Their detective is Saxon, an exFBI profiler who went to Ireland to write a story about a serial killer there. She stayed on after the story ended. Unfortunately the series ended after four novels.

  2. James Doss's series about Charlie Moon is excellent; it's sort of like Hillerman's work, but with a wry humorous twist... he's gone now, but i believe there were about ten books in the series...

  3. I happen to think this is a decent series, Tim. I think it could very easily go on too long, but that hasn't happened yet for me *shrug.*

    1. Margot, some series succeed and some stumble. I'm glad this one is a winner for you. I guess it's a two sided coin for the authors of such series; the authors can love the success but hate the repetitions. Doyle comes to mind.