The second installment in a prequel trilogy, the novel gives us another glimpse into gentleman detective Charles Lenox’s early days. Having made allies within the police force, Lenox is beginning to make a real effort to carve out a career as an investigator for hire.

He is approached by the Duke of Dorset when a painting is stolen from his study. Unwilling to attract publicity, he hires Lenox privately. He also doesn’t want to draw attention to another item in his collection — a portrait which family legend claims is of Shakespeare. Even unauthenticated it’s a valuable piece. In fact, the Duke has a suspicion that the thief may have stolen the wrong painting.

The case to find a lost painting takes a strange turn when the Duke is kidnapped.

Theo had only heard the barest details of the incident. He knew the duke had been stepping from his carriage outside the august Carlton Club, which was the luxurious and exclusive game preserve of the conservative party. It was apparently where Dorset went nearly every morning, meaning the kidnappers might well have lain in wait for him there. ~Pg. 54

Lenox begins to look in to the history of the Shakespeare portrait at the same time he searches for the thief and the kidnappers.

Finch explores Shakespearean rumor, English history, and mystery, and turns it into a bit of a quest adventure. He winds together the Dissolution of the Monasteries, steamers on the Thames, riddles, and the complicated dance of high society rumor and standing.

The most enjoyable scenes are with Lenox’s nephew. The two trade banter and practical jokes like a PG Wodehouse story. I also wanted more of Duncan Jones, Lenox’s friend who works at the British Library. He brings a thoughtful, quiet presence to the pages.

The plot wanders a bit and at times feels more constructed instead of organic. Still, it’s an enjoyable book. Reading a Charles Lenox story is always like wrapping yourself in a comfortable sweater.

Thank you to Minotaur Books for the review copy.

My rating:
*Lost a half star for an anachronism about the Tower of London ravens.

Series: Charles Lenox Mysteries (Book 12)
Hardcover: 304 pages
Publisher: Minotaur Books (February 19, 2019)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1250311365
ISBN-13: 978-1250311368

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