Saturday, March 20, 2021

Review: An Extravagant Death by Charles Finch

by Charles Finch
Release Date: February 16, 2021
2021 Minotaur Books
Kindle Edition; 288 Pages
ISBN: 978-1250767134
ASIN: B08BYD4215
Genre: Fiction / Historical / Mystery
Source: Review copy from publisher

3 / 5 Stars

London, 1878. With faith in Scotland Yard shattered after a damning corruption investigation, Charles Lenox's detective agency is rapidly expanding. The gentleman sleuth has all the work he can handle, two children, and an intriguing new murder case.

But when a letter arrives with an unexpected invitation, he's unable to resist the call of an old, unfulfilled yearning: to travel to America. Arriving in New York, he begins to receive introductions into both its old Knickerbocker society and its new robber baron splendor. Then, a shock: the suicide of the season's most beautiful debutante, who has thrown herself from a cliff. Or was it a suicide? Her closest friend doesn't think so, and Lenox, sacrificing his plans, travels to the family's magnificent Newport mansion in the guise of an idle English gentleman. What ensues is a fiendsh game of cat and mouse.
My Thoughts
An Extravagant Death is the next entry in the Charles Lenox Mysteries and while I enjoyed it, for me it was definitely the weakest book of the series.  Usually it would be called a misfire in a series, but I don't want to necessarily say that as there was still a lot of good things about this book; unfortunately, the mystery was the weakest point, and perhaps, the character development.  
First of all, I will start with the setting which I loved.  Lenox travels to the U.S. in this instalment on advice from the Prime Minister in order to get away from the court proceedings occurring as a result of his previous investigation; the powers that be don't really want him testifying during the trial and the only way they can ensure this is to have him out of the country.  I really enjoyed his travels and loved how out of touch he was with American customs, constantly comparing them to how things were at home.  It was refreshing and interesting, old money versus new money.   It's funny as this book made me want to watch the movie, The Age of Innocence, again as it discusses a lot of the customs of the wealthy during this time period and I couldn't help thinking about that film while I was reading this book, especially seeing things through an Englishman's eyes.  I especially loved seeing names like Astor and Vanderbilt show up as Lenox crosses paths with the rich and influential, even garnering an invitation to the most highly sought after ball of the season, mostly due to his wife's influence.  His observations are very interesting indeed. 

Unfortunately, I though the mystery was rather weak and I easily figured out who was the guilty person.  I remember thinking, this is it?  And while Lenox' investigations did introduce you to a variety of local people and their extravagant lifestyles, there was just something missing in this book.  It was also pretty predictable, something I don't usually mention regarding these books.  For the first time, I actually found myself sort of skimming through, not really as immersed as I usually am, and that made me somewhat sad.  These books have grown so much from the first book and I have enjoyed them tremendously. 

Charles himself has grown immensely as a character, but I really wish the author would do something about his wife.  She was very interesting in the beginning, but I find her to be somewhat boring now as she is always portrayed as if she is...perfect.  The perfect hostess.  The perfect socialite.  Everyone thinks she is charming.  Everyone loves her.  Charles got an invitation to an Astor ball because of Jane.  Allrighty now.  I actually prefer characters who are flawed and she is starting to get on my nerves.  
An Extravagant Death was not what I was expecting, but I did really like the conflict Charles was dealing with at the end of the book and I am curious to see where the author takes that conflict when he goes back to England.  I did find the mystery really weak, and I really wish the author would develop Jane more as a character as she is getting...boring.  I still recommend this book to anyone who reads this series, but it is definitely one of the weakest books in my opinion.  However, I am still looking forward to the next book to see what happens to Charles and what decision he makes.