A Beautiful Blue Death

I am astonished at how utterly boring this was.  Generally, I love books about clever Victorian people cleverly solving cleverly-committed crimes.  When the books are set in America, they have a grittiness about them that is extremely pleasing, and when set in Britain, a sort of charming quirkiness that makes you feel as though solving a murder is as much of an art as preparing tea properly.

A Beautiful Blue Death has none of these things.  It is neither raw nor refined.  It simply ... is.  And for a book to just exist certainly doesn't mean it's worth reading.

So what's wrong with this, other than any sense of style whatsoever?  The plot is bizarre and muddled, and the main character is (at least to me) thoroughly unlikeable.  Charles Lenox is the bored second son of a rich man who has nothing better to do with his time than sneak into crime scenes as an "amateur detective" in order to show up the police by solving the case.

This is the point in the review where I could go off on a tangent about law enforcement and abuse of power, but I will restrain myself.  Suffice it to say that in general, police officers are trained to perform specific tasks.  If some yahoo (or worse: bored rich man) sauntered in off the street and began to inform them that they knew nothing about, say, DNA typing or toxicology, and that he, Lord Yahoo, could totally solve the case before one could say "Boo!" it would not be taken well.

It's a bit like if I were to march into an operating theater and inform a neurosurgeon that I could do that brain surgery better than he could because I'd read books on the matter and I stayed at a Holiday Inn Express last night.

Nope.  In my estimation, Charles Lenox is the very worst private investigator I've ever read about.  He sees himself as this tragically underestimated crime-solver when in reality he's just a bored man who could just roll in his money.  His brother is a member of Parliament and his best friend/love interest is a very wealthy society lady.  Evidently, Papa Lenox wasn't a fan of the usual ways of getting rid of a second son: the clergy or the army.  Honestly, I don't know what sort of skill set Charles has, other than being irritating and pretending to be a good detective.  He can't even solve this case without serious assistance from his butler and another guy that he hires to do all the dirty work.

Oh, the case?  I'm not even sure.  Lady Jane (that's his hot friend who's conveniently a widow) calls him over, the picture of distress, because a former maid of hers has been found dead.  Instead of just getting on with things and marrying her, or at least giving her a good snog, Dutiful Charles takes the case "in the name of friendship."

Because as is repeated numerous times throughout the book, Charles and Lady Jane are just so different for having a totally, completely, really really platonic relationship because they grew up together.

So Charles runs around, impeding the police investigation and dragging along his alcoholic, very rich, but brilliant friend Dr. Thomas McConnell (who is married to a young girl named Toto and whose mawwage is stwained because of all the drinking and why are we talking about this again?).  McConnell immediately figures out that the maid's cause of death was ingestion of a very rare and expensive poison called bella indigo, hence the title of the book.  Oddly, on her desk there was a bottle of arsenic and a suicide note.

As you may have guessed, Prue, the victim, couldn't write, so it was obviously ... murder.  Almost immediately afterwards, Charles and Thomas get kicked out of the house and start sleuthing around on their own.  Alas, it is wintertime in London, and Charles, despite being Rich and Clever, cannot find a good pair of winter boots to save his life, and he's always carrying on about how cold his feet are and how much he wants his slippers.

Then somebody else gets murdered.  Inconveniently, this person was the prime murder suspect.  More shenanigans ensue, including dressing Edmond, Charles' Parliamentary brother, up as a homeless person and having him lurk about.

Pretty much everything about this novel irked me.  I'll be retreating back to the nicely gritty Barker and Llwellyn series.  There's a lot more fighting and a lot less weird Victorian sexual tension.  Oh, and those books also have interesting mysteries, great atmosphere, and intriguing characters.


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