If you can imagine yourself walking through the streets of Oxford, spending an afternoon in Bodleian Library and then eating your supper in a pub, and if your daydream then takes you to London to those timeless streets in Mayfair, then you are almost ready to spend a day or two in an English mystery story. If you’d like to find yourself on those Oxford and London streets in a morning coat or bell-shaped skirt with a crinoline underneath and a puffed sleeve blouse, then you’d better brace yourself for the dense fogs and gas lights that characterized Victorian cities, especially, it seems, after someone has disappeared…or been murdered.
I was in the mood for just these settings this week and research drew me to this book by Charles Finch. The September Society: A Mystery is set in Victorian Oxford and London. You are given all the clues to the disappearance of one Oxford student and the murder of another – at one point, the clues are even listed by the gentleman detective so that you don’t have to keep checking back for them, or make your own list. But, if you’re like me, all this assistance won’t help you solve either mystery. So you’d best follow that gentleman detective around as he tries to unravel the mystery of the September Society. Finch’s writing is so vivid that you could be doing exactly that. You could get lost in this atmospheric setting for a full afternoon and evening, as I did.
This is the second mystery in Finch’s series featuring Charles Lenox, but I did not feel set back by not having read the first. The characters are likeable and complex and the plot is systematically set out, with no contrivances that I could tell. Although, considering how absorbed I get in the story itself, I’m clearly not the most analytical critic when it comes to historical mysteries.
Getting lost in the story is half the fun of a mystery to me and so The September Society: A Mystery gets my strongest recommendation.