The Vanishing Man: A Prequel to the Charles Lenox Series by Charles Finch
Barbara’s rating: 4 of 5 stars
Series: Charles Lenox Mysteries – Prequel #2
Publication Date: 2/19/19
Number of Pages: 304
The Vanishing Man is a wonderful addition to the Prequel series for Charles Lenox Mysteries and it is set three years after the first of the prequel novels A Woman In The Water. As always, it is well-written and well-plotted. I have read all of the books in the Charles Lenox series and it is nice to now go back in time and meet a younger and more unsure Charles who is just feeling his way into his chosen profession. The author does an excellent job of putting you in that time and place and making you feel the censure Charles gets from his peers for choosing that profession. While the mystery is excellent, two of my favorite things had nothing to do with it – one was the excellent outline of the British peerage, it was excellently done, and another was learning the origins of some words like ‘tips’ and ‘clue’. I might also add that if I were just newly coming to this series now, I would prefer to read the prequels before starting on the series itself. For one thing, the travel back in time is a bit of a shock to the system and it is bittersweet to get to know some people when you already know what their future holds.
In this book, Charles is still fairly melancholy and missing his father a lot. The author did an excellent job of putting you in Charles’ place and making you understand his grief and loss. Charles also does a bit of pining for what might have been between him and Jane. On a lighter note, I absolutely loved Charles’ young cousin, Lancelot, who was staying with him over the two-week term break at Eton. There is a scene in there between Lancelot and the Duke of Dorset that will have you in stitches!
Charles still hasn’t decided what to call himself – Private Investigator – Private Detective – he just can’t decide and since there are no others like him, it is up to him. Since his last case, things have been pretty slow for Charles – and then he gets a summons from the Duke of Dorset. So, things are looking up.
Charles arrives at the Duke’s home and is taken directly to the duke’s private-private study (you’ll understand when you read the book) where the duke tells him that there has been a robbery and he wants Charles to solve it. A painting with little value has been stolen from the room they are in, but the duke is convinced that the thief got the wrong painting. There is a priceless painting hanging directly beside the one that was stolen and the duke is sure that is the one the thieves wanted. After hearing the entire tale, Charles isn’t so sure that the thieves took the wrong painting. What was surprising was that the duke was only interested in the name of the thief, he wasn’t interested at all in recovering the painting.
Charles is busy trying to track down the painting when the duke is kidnapped and a ransom demand is left behind. Now, Charles has two mysteries to solve! Then – there is a murder and Charles has three cases to juggle. It will take all of his investigational skills and observational skills to figure out what is happening. He also meets Thaddeus Bonden who is famed for ‘finding’ things and Bonden agrees to help and to mentor Charles in some skills Charles feels he is lacking.
There is excellent character development from the first book to this one and it is nice to be able to explore the early relationships between Charles and his brother as well as Charles and Lady Jane. The love between Charles and his brother, Edwin, is plain to see and I enjoyed their interactions. All of the relationships in Charles’ life – Edwin, Graham, Mrs. Huggins, Lady Jane – are all rich, charming and funny. Then you add in the mischievous Lancelot into the mix and you have some lovely light moments that alleviate those darker ones.
I love Charles’ continuing pursuit of knowledge in the field of his craft. Part of that pursuit causes him to visit bedlam weekly to speak with criminally insane inmates. He wants to understand the criminal mind. Charles is insatiably curious about almost everything and that all goes a long way to help him develop the necessary skills he needs.
I definitely recommend this book and this series. It is very well written and the research is impeccable. You feel as if you are in that place and time along with the characters in the book. Well done Mr. Finch.
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