Charles Lenox is a well-educated, well-connected young man, but even he, when called to the Duke of Dorset’s home after a painting is found to have been stolen, knows his place. After all, even among the aristocracy, a Duke is way above Lenox, particularly now that he has taken to detecting (after all, what well-bred man works?). But status doesn’t deter Lenox from carrying out his investigation—even when it involves standing up to the Duke and pursuing the revelation of a long-held family secret that leads to murder.
Lenox is the hero of a series of Victorian era mysteries involving Charles Lenox written by bestselling author Charles Finch who though he calls Chicago his home, seems mainly to live in London during the mid-to-late 1800s. His newest Lenox novel, The Vanishing Man (Minotaur 2019; $26.99) is the second in his three-series prequel showing the detective when he was young and just starting off. The prequels take place before the 11 other Lenox mysteries Finch has written.
Interestingly, Finch has been writing his novels for so long, he says he’s never had a real job. He also has a philosophy of writing that goes against what’s commonly recommended.
“I think you should write what you love,” he says. “Not what you know or see. And I love that period of history.”
He must as he spends a lot of time in a different country and different century. Though Finch says he’s a hypochondriac and would be afraid to really be a part of a time when even a simple infection could kill–penicillin after all is still over half a century from being discovered.
“But I would love to walk down the streets and get a feeling for what it was like at that time,” he says. “I’d like to really immerse myself.”
Instead Finch delves deep into research and history.
“This book was especially difficult to peel myself away from,” he says.
He’s also an avid reader of Victorian novels (Finch lists Anthony Trollope, Sherlock Holmes and George Elliott as among his favorites), Finch lived in England for almost four years so though he can’t go back to Victorian times, he at least is very familiar with the country. He says he chose his latest plot because he wanted to wade into Shakespeare and examine some of the mysteries and myths surrounding the great playwright.
“Writing about Shakespeare gave me a chance to look into every old apocryphal story about him and his times, and in the end– without giving too much away–I discovered one of the most plausible—and unproven–theories about his life,” he says. “It’s one which is directly connected to the crime Lenox is solving in 1851.”