Skip to main content

The Inheritance: A Charles Lenox Mystery


The Inheritance: A Charles Lenox Mystery

Following HOME BY NIGHTFALL and THE LAWS OF MURDER, Charles Finch’s 10th Charles Lenox mystery --- a series as polished as British sterling --- has multiple subplots that diverge like a river meandering in a delta. Specifically, the Thames, in 1877 London. Only, this river is a literary one, filled with red herrings. Queen Victoria has reigned for 40 years, and the Second Industrial Revolution has peaked. The sun never sets on the British Empire.

Former Member of Parliament Charles Lenox has formed a burgeoning investigative agency, along with Britain’s first female sleuth, Polly Buchanan, and Lord John Dallington. Lenox had developed an interest in solving mysteries 30 years before, at prestigious Harrow. School bud Gerald Leigh’s father had been killed in a carriage incident, and a “mysterious benefactor” (which the duo dubs MB) pays the Harvard-like tuition and boarding costs. They never detect MB’s identity --- until now.

"Charles Finch’s 10th Charles Lenox mystery --- a series as polished as British sterling --- has multiple subplots that diverge like a river meandering in a delta."

Fast-forward to the new era of electric lighting, and Lenox receives a cryptic message from Leigh: The latter’s life is endangered. It seems someone has left Leigh an eyebrow-raising inheritance, but the solicitor engaged to track down the scientist now living in France refuses to disclose the maker of the bequest. Leigh has returned to London to sign necessary documents and receive the inherited fortune.

Shortly after, the barrister is murdered, and his valise containing documents detailing the bequest has vanished. Many stand to receive the inheritance if Leigh is not alive to do so, and he goes into hiding following two attempts on his life. After “a few pieces of tidy detective work,” Lenox questions if his school chum killed attorney Ernest Middleton and faked the attempts on his own life as a diversion, proving there’s “little so dangerous as people who wish you well.”Tension ratchets, however, as members of the nefarious Farthings gang are spotted tailing Leigh.

The red herrings swim upstream, into Lenox’s sleuthing agency. Leigh is asked to address the scientific community of the Royal Society, and a member mysteriously summons him to speak in secret. Lord Dallington investigates a Parliament pilferage that’s too conveniently hushed, and traces onto the towering roof the presumed burglar Labrenz. “Labrenz was a Prussian spy, wanted throughout England.”

THE INHERITANCE is fraught with the early days and development of Charles Lenox’s interest in detection. The author interlaces word origins, along with afternoon tea or a pint at the pub. Readers learn that a horse-drawn cabriolet is the etymon of cab, as in taxi. There’s even an explanation as to why Brits drive on the left, while those in civilized countries prefer the right.

Although reliving London life of 14 decades ago is satisfying, the detective aspects of this Lenox installment are less so. Still, Charles Finch never ceases to amaze readers with wit and mighty good storytelling.

Reviewed by L. Dean Murphy on December 2, 2016

The Inheritance: A Charles Lenox Mystery
by Charles Finch