The September Society

The September Society by Charles Finch. It would be easy to dismiss this two-book series as yet another featuring an amateur aristocrat sleuth in Victorian England (1866), but the quality of Finch’s writing makes these Charles Lenox adventures stand out above many others. Finch provides detailed scene descriptions without taking away from the action of the complex mysteries. The supporting characters: Graham, the butler, McConnell, the doctor, and Lady Jane Grey, the neighbor and beloved friend, provide elements of humor and romance to the stories that are usually positive contributions. Lenox’s hesitancy and shyness around Jane may seem like too abrupt a character change compared to his typically decisive investigative nature, but others may view it as a way of making Lenox a more-developed lead actor.

This second adventure finds Lenox returning to his university at Oxford to investigate a student’s disappearance. The clues eventually lead him to The September Society, a secretive club for officers who served in one specific battalion of Her Majesty’s army in India twenty years earlier. Lenox suspects that members of the club are behind the young man’s abduction, but struggles to find a motive. The action is split between London and Oxford and Finch uses his own knowledge as a student there to expand upon the history of the town and the many colleges that make up the community.

Despite my enjoyment of the mystery, I don’t think this tale is as strong as the Agatha Award-nominated first book, A Beautiful Blue Death. The plot gets a bit convoluted at the end with too many cases of hidden identities and red herrings. I also thought the romantic subplot was distracting and did not add to the story. I did like the addition of an apprentice detective. Based on the flurry of activity that happens after the case is solved, it appears that Lenox’s personal lifestyle will be undergoing major changes in the near future. It will be interesting to see how these changes affect his ability to continue as a detective.

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