Sunday, January 17, 2021


A Beautiful Blue Death turns out to be nothing of the sort.  Lovely housemaid Prudence Smith has been found murdered with the rare poison bella indigo.  To confuse matters further, a small bottle of arsenic is left on the bedside table, even though this is not what killed her.  Could it be a strange case of suicide? These are all matters that require the investigative skills of Charles Lenox, second son (therefore untitled) but still wealthy enough to pursue his interests and hobbies without having to worry about making a living.  Charles is asked to investigate the death by his childhood friend and current neighbor the widow Lady Jane Grey.  Prudence has only left Lady Jane's house to take up another job in a house where her fiancé is also employed.  So, if Prudence's death is indeed a murder, how did she manage to make a deadly enemy so soon in her new place of employment?

Charles has just successfully solved a forgery case that had baffled his nemesis, the Inspector Exeter of Scotland Yard.  Sadly, it doesn't take much to baffle Exeter, but he still insists that Charles should stay out of his cases and absolutely avoid meddling in any ongoing investigations.  Still, Charles agrees to help Lady Jane find out what happened to her former employee.

Plenty of suspects soon emerge at the new house where Prudence was working.  The man who owned the house, George Barnard, is the director of the Royal Mint.  He also happens to have many houseguests who all come under suspicion:  other mint/government employees, impoverished relatives, and of course, numerous servants.  

Charles is assisted in his inquiries by many eager would-be detectives: his elder brother Edmund, his butler Graham, Lady Jane's cousin Toto and her husband the alcoholic Dr. Thomas McConnell, Prudence's distraught fiancé, and other assorted helpers from London's busy streets.  While trying to find a motive for the murder of the maid, Charles must traverse London in shoddy boots, pour over the latest travel/historical books and maps accommodating booksellers deliver to his home daily, and keep up his social schedule of visits, balls, and teas.  It's all very exhausting!

While the beginning of the book was a bit difficult to follow, due to the many characters that were introduced, I was eventually able to keep track of them and I began to enjoy trying to figure out who the guilty party was.  Although most of the characters go about their upper-class lives without much thought for "how the other half lives," there were occasional twinges of social conscience, such as when some shady characters lead the shadowing Graham into "the Rookery" slum and the conditions are very shocking for him.  

This book is the first in the Charles Lenox mystery series, which is now up to 12 books.  I look forward to returning to Victorian London to see what new adventures he finds!

Disclaimer:  I received a copy of A Beautiful Blue Death from NetGalley in exchange for this review


About Me

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I'm a librarian who is interested in all things British. I try to visit London as often as possible, and am always planning my next trip. I lived in Sweden for a few years with my Swedish husband, so the occasional Swedish reference may occur . . .

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The Gherkin Scale

5gherkinsb Brilliant!

4gherkinsb Good, innit?

3gherkinsb Fair to middlin'

2gherkinsb Has some good points

1gherkin Oi! Wot you playin' at?

0gherkins3Don't be givin' me evils!

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