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A Burial at Sea
Charles Lexnox Mystery, No 5
Charles Finch

Minotaur Books
November 8, 2011 / ISBN: 0312625081
Historical Mystery / Private Investigator / England / 1873/Victorian

Reviewed by L J Roberts

First Sentence: He gazed out at the sunfall from an open second-floor window, breathing deeply of the cool salt air, and felt it was the first calm moment he had known in days.

Charles Lenox's life has undergone significant changes. He is recently married, is about to become a father, has given up investigation and is a Member of Parliament. Yet the newly-dug Suez Canal has strained relations between England and France has Charles boarding ship on a secret mission. However, when a brutal murder occurs aboard ship, it is Charles' old skills which must be applied to finding the killer.

It is the characters which draw me back to this series, time after time. Charles is an investigator, not of bravado and daring acts, but of intelligence, determination, and decency. There is a particularly delightful scene of his reaction to a progressive woman he meets in Egypt, signaling the changes times in social culture. Lady Jane, although in a cameo role here, is a character one can't help but love. It was nice to learn the background of their relationship. Yet it is Lenox's ship steward, the ever-eating, ever efficient McEwan, who almost steals the story. One does hope he'll show up in future books.

Finch paints a fascinating picture of live aboard ship; the structure and the disparity of ship-life between the officers and the men-it makes one thinks of today's news. The descriptions of the food and meals were hunger-making. I also appreciated learning the history of the Suez Canal and all the historical information seamlessly woven into the story. The ship's encounter with an American warship was wonderfully done and very interesting.

The plot, however, did suffer a bit. The unmasking of the killer felt abrupt; the inclusion of his being in Egypt superfluous except for the final dramatic, and rather delightfully done, capture of the killer. Then there were the portents at chapter ends; completely unnecessary and had the effect of diminishing, rather than enhancing, the feeling of suspense.

A Burial at Sea has suspense, but it is mild. It is a perfect read for those who like their books character-driven, who want something more than a cozy, but not all that dark. It is a series I thoroughly enjoy.

Reviewed 2012
© 2011