A Burial at Sea (Charles Lenox Series #5)

A Burial at Sea (Charles Lenox Series #5)

by Charles Finch, Amanda Ashley

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"Agatha Christie meets Patrick O'Brian in Finch's accomplished fifth whodunit set in Victorian England (after 2010's A Stranger in Mayfair), the best in the series to date."

—Starred Review, Publisher's Weekly 9/12/2011

Charles Lenox, Member of Parliament, sets sail on a clandestine mission for the government. When an officer is savagely murdered, however, Lenox is drawn toward his old profession, determined to capture another killer.

1873 is a perilous time in the relationship between France and England. When a string of English spies is found dead on French soil, the threat of all-out war prompts government officials to ask Charles Lenox to visit the newly-dug Suez Canal on a secret mission.

Once he is on board the Lucy, however, Lenox finds himself using not his new skills of diplomacy but his old ones: the ship's second lieutenant is found dead on the voyage's first night, his body cruelly abused. The ship's captain begs the temporarily retired detective to join in the hunt for a criminal. Lenox finds the trail, but in the claustrophobic atmosphere on board, where nobody can come or go and everyone is a suspect, he has to race against the next crime—and also hope he won't be the victim.

At once a compulsive murder mystery, a spy story, and an intimate and joyful journey with the Victorian navy, this book shows that no matter how far Lenox strays from his old life, it will always come back to find him.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781429980708
Publisher: St. Martin''s Publishing Group
Publication date: 11/08/2011
Series: Charles Lenox Series , #5
Sold by: Macmillan
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 320
Sales rank: 67,115
File size: 581 KB

About the Author

Charles Finch is a graduate of Yale and Oxford. He is the author of the Charles Lenox mysteries, including The Fleet Street Murders, The September Society and A Stranger in Mayfair. His first novel, A Beautiful Blue Death, was nominated for an Agatha Award and was named one of Library Journal's Best Books of 2007, one of only five mystery novels on the list. He lives in Oxford, England.

Charles Finch is the USA Today bestselling author of the Charles Lenox historical mysteries, which begin with A Beautiful Blue Death. His contemporary novel The Last Enchantments, is also available from St. Martin's Press.

Finch received the 2017 Nona Balakian Citation Award, for excellence in reviewing, from the National Book Critics Circle. His essays and criticism have appeared in the New York Times, Slate, Washington Post, and elsewhere. He lives in Los Angeles.

Read an Excerpt

He gazed out at the sunfall from an open second-floor window, breathing deeply of the cool salt air, and felt it was the first calm moment he had known in days. Between the outfitting, the packing, the political conversations with his brother, and a succession of formal meals that had served as shipboard introductions to the officers of the Lucy, his week in Plymouth had been a daze of action and information.
Now, though, Charles Lenox could be still for a moment. As he looked out over the maze of thin streets that crossed the short path to the harbor, and then over the gray, calm water itself—smudged brown with half-a-dozen large ships and any number of small craft—he bent forward slightly over the hip-high window rail, hands in pockets. He was past forty now, forty-two, and his frame, always thin and strong, had started to fill out some at the waist. His trim brown hair, however, was still untouched by gray. On his face was a slight, careworn smile, matched by his tired, happy, and curious hazel eyes. He had been for much of his life a detective, more lately a member of Parliament for the district of Stirrington, and now for the first time, he would be something else: something very like a diplomat.
Or even a spy.
It had begun two months before, in early March. Lenox had been at home on Hampden Lane. This was the small street just off Grosvenor Square, lined with pleasant houses and innocuous shops—a bookseller, a tobacconist—where he had lived nearly his whole adult life. For much of that time his best friend had lived next door to him, a widow named Lady Jane Grey whose family was also from Sussex: they had grown up riding together, fidgeting through church together: together. Just three years before, to his own confused and happy surprise, Lenox had realized how very much he loved her. It had taken some time to gather the courage to ask her to marry him. But he had. Now, in the winter of 1873, they were just getting used to the upside-down tumble their lives had taken. Their houses, side by side as they were, had been rebuilt to connect, and now they lived within a sprawling mishmash of rooms that matched their joined-up lives. They were a couple.
Lenox had been in his study that evening in March, making notes for a speech he hoped to give the following day in the House of Commons about India. There was a gentle snow outside the high windows near his desk, and the gaslights cast a dim and romantic light over the white, freshened streets.
There was a knock at the door.
Lenox put down his pen and flexed his sore hand, opening and closing it, as he waited for their butler, Kirk, to show the guest in.
“Sir Edmund Lenox,” Kirk announced, and to his delight Charles saw his older brother’s cheerful and ruddy face pop around the doorway.
“Ed!” he said, and stood. They clasped hands. “Come, sit by the fire—you must be nigh on frozen. Well, it’s been two weeks nearly, hasn’t it? You’re in the country too often for my taste, I tell you that frankly.”
Edmund smiled widely but he looked exhausted. “In fact I wasn’t at the house, so you can’t lay that charge against me,” he said. The house being the one they had grown up in together, Lenox House.
“No? But you said you were going to see Molly and the—”
The baronet waved a hand. “Security reasons, they say, but whatever it is we were at Lord Axmouth’s place in Kent, five of us, holed up with the admiralty, the chaps from the army, a rotating cast of ministers … with Gladstone.”
The prime minister. Charles furrowed his brow. “What can it have been about?”
In person Edmund Lenox looked very much like his younger brother, but he was perhaps less shrewd in the eyes, more open-faced. He served in Parliament out of a sense, not of ambition, but of duty, inherited from their father, and indeed preferred the country to London. Perhaps as a result he had a countryish air. He seemed heartier than his brother Charles.
This innocent, candid mien, however, concealed a more intelligent mind than one might immediately have suspected. It had been to Lenox’s great shock when he first learned, five or six years before, that Edmund wasn’t the stolid backbencher he had always appeared to be, but in fact a leading member of his party who had declined important posts again and again, preferring to work behind the scenes.
Now he surprised Charles again.
“You know something of my purview?” Edmund said.
“Something.” Lenox himself was still a backbencher, but could say without undue immodesty that he was a rising man; long hours of work had seen to that. “You advise the ministers, consult with the prime minister on occasion, find votes—that sort of thing.”
Edmund smiled again, an unhappy smile this time. “First of all, let me say that I come to ask a favor. I hope you’ll agree to do it.”
“With all my heart.”
“Not so quickly, for love’s sake, Charles.”
Edmund sighed and stood up from the armchair, staring for a moment at the low, crackling glow in the hearth. “Might I have a drink?” he asked.
“The usual?” Lenox stood and walked over to a small, square, lacquered table crowded with crystal decanters. He poured them each a glass of Scotch whisky. “Here you are.”
“There are other parts of my job, that I haven’t mentioned to you before,” said Edmund after a sip. “A role I play that you might call more—more secret.”
Lenox understood instantly, and felt well inside him some mixture of excitement, tension, surprise, and even a slight hurt that he hadn’t heard of this before. “Intelligence?” he said gravely.
“What branch?”
Edmund considered the question. “You might call me an overseer, of sorts.”
“All of it, then.”
“Since the new prime minister came in, yes. I report to him. These weeks we have been—”
“You might have told me,” said Charles, his tone full of forced jocularity.
With comprehension in his eyes Edmund said, “I would have, believe me—I would have come to you first were I permitted to speak of it.”
“And why can you now? This favor?”
“It’s France,” said Edmund. “We’re worried about France.”
“That doesn’t make sense. Everything has been cordial, hasn’t it? Uneasily so, I suppose, but—”
Edmund sat down. “Charles,” he said with a hard look, “will you go to Egypt for us?”
Taken aback, Charles returned his brother’s stare. “Why—I suppose I could,” he said at last. “If you needed me to.”
So that spark had burst into this conflagration; Lenox would set sail twelve hours from now aboard the Lucy, a corvette bound for the Suez.
A cool breeze fluttered the thin white curtains on either side of him. He felt his nerves shake slightly, his stomach tighten, as he contemplated the idea of leaving, of all his fresh responsibility. This Plymouth house—a cream-colored old Georgian in a row, let by the week or month to officers and their families—had in just two weeks come to feel almost like home, and he realized with a feeling of surprise that he would be sorry to leave it, even though he had looked forward to nothing else for two months but his voyage. Then he understood that it wasn’t the house he would miss, but the home that his wife had made of it.
He heard the door open downstairs.
“Charles?” a voice rang from the bottom of the stairs. It was Lady Jane.
Before he answered he hesitated for a brief moment and looked out again at Plymouth Harbor, under its falling golden sun, savoring the idea, every boy’s dream, of being out at sea.
“Up here!” he cried then. “Let me give you a hand.”
But she was clambering up the stairs. “Nonsense! I’m already halfway there.”
She came in, pink-faced, dark-haired, smallish, pretty in a rather plain way, dressed all in blue and gray—and holding her belly, which, though her dress hid it, had begun to round out.
For after hesitation and dispute, something wonderful had happened to them, that daily miracle of the world that nevertheless always manages to catch us off guard, no matter our planning, no matter our dreams, no matter our circumstances: she was pregnant.

Copyright © 2011 by Charles Finch

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A Burial at Sea 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 37 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Charles Lenox undertakes a mission to Egypt and runs into murder and intrigue aboard ship and on shore. Set in England in the 1860s, this series is a good mix of history and mystery. Lovers of both should enjoy this 5th book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
As a mystery buff who has read all of Charles Finch's books, I am so gratified by his sensitive character development, interesting plots, thorough research, and enthralling stories. At his young age, he will undoubtedly grow into one of the all-time great authors.
ac123 More than 1 year ago
have to respond to the 1 star...why give 1 star to just be snarky? Love this author-if you like a true mystery, with Victorian atmosphere (backed by an author who knows the Victorian period) this is the author for you. Haven't read the book yet, of course, but have neer been disappointed by him. I'll buy the hardbacked copy of this book the day it comes out.
RevStyles More than 1 year ago
I have enjoyed all of Charles Finch's books about Charles Lenox. While this one is quite a departure from the previous books I found it to be the most entertaining one yet. Most of it takes place aboard a ship, and Finch obviously did his research to make certain he got the details right. He gives an absorbing feel of life aboard a sailing vessel, and made me feel part of the whole experience. That's what I look for in a good book, and Charles Finch delivered. A thoroughly enjoyable read.
Cuchillo More than 1 year ago
My wife and I read every Charles Finch book as soon as it come out. We love this series and this is one of the best. Great sailing ship/Royal Navy background for this murder mystery. If you love mystery stories based in the 1900's, you will love this. Lent it to a friend and he read it almost overnight (he's a Marine and loves the era of the old sailing ships).
dpappas on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I won this book from a GoodReads first read giveaway. This is the first that I had heard of this series. There were a couple other books in the series before this book and I would have liked to have read them before this book, but it isn't necessary to do so to understand what is going on in the book. I love historical fiction and I love mysteries. That being said sometimes this book fell a little flat to me. It just felt like Charles Lenox's investigation of the murder(s) aboard the Lucy dragged on and on. It's a relatively short book but I felt like some of it could have been cut out. I didn't find the mystery of who had committed the murders to be that difficult to solve, maybe it's just me though. One thing that really irked me about the book though was when Billings was finally acknowledged as the murder and he just goes crazy. I didn't think the whole "I want to put my pocket knife in you! I want to put my pocket knife in you!" was necessary.Don't get me wrong the book did have some really good parts. I loved the relationship between McEwan and Lenox, in fact McEwan was my favorite character. The good definitely outwayed the bad.I would recommend this book to historical fiction and mystery fans. I think my overall experience with it would have been better if I had read the other books in the series before this one.
Beamis12 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Once again Charles Lennox finds himself solving a murder, or rather two murders. This time on the ship Lucy, en-route to Egypt. Love these atmospheric understated mysteries and in this one we learn quite a bit about the lives of sailors, the dangers and the camaraderie as well as the political dangers of the time. Mid 1870's and relations were extremely stressful between France and England with both sides spying on the other and it is this time period that is covered in this entertaining mystery.
eawsmom on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I received this book through the Early Reviewers program, although I think it had already been published by the time I got it.I enjoyed the book and learned quite a bit about the Royal Navy of the 1800s. Charles Lenox, former detective and current Member of Parliament, is sent to Egypt via the Lucy as an envoy from Queen Victoria, ostensibly to determine whether or not Great Britain should invest in the newly constructed Suez Canal. Along with this public activity, he has a clandestine operation to conduct: meeting with a mysterious Frenchman to determine why British secret agents are being killed in France. In addition to these activities, he is called on to solve two murders aboard the ship en route to Egypt.There were some twists in the plot which were unexpected, and others which I anticpated. Overall, it was well-written; however, there were some sentences which I puzzled over and still didn't quite understand what the author was trying to say. This was my first encounter with Charles Lenox. For the most part, I enjoyed it and will likely find the earlier books in the series to learn more of his story. While the earlier books don't seem to be crucial to reading this one, there are references to earlier activities which would be clearer if the books were read in order.
BooksForDinner on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I liked this novel, but maybe not as much as his previous ones. WEll written as always, solid characters, but I was a bit disappointed by the way the murderer was portrayed. A little over the top and unrealistic for me. Yet, I'll be waiting later this year for the next install,
vespasia on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
As a fan of this series I am a little dissapointed in this latest addition. Not sure if its the change of location or the different characters. Charles Lenox solving a murder at sea just didnt work for me. Still looking forward to the next in the series.
lilkim714 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Charles Finch does it again.. I have come to love this series and to anticipate new books from this author. I love the main character and the minor characters. This one takes place upon a ship for the most part in Her Majesty's Navy. With murder and clues left behind it will leave you guessing who "did it" until the very end.
BookAngel_a on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is the fifth installment of the Charles Lenox series. Just as a warning, there may be some spoilers here for those who have not read earlier books in the series. It would probably be best to read these books in order - although I don't think it would be impossible to follow if you didn't.Charles Finch is reluctantly setting off to Egypt on a dual mission for Parliament. Half the mission is public, relating to the new Panama Canal, and half of it is secret and dangerous. The boat Lucy will be taking him there, and he will also get to keep an eye on his nephew Teddy - since this is Teddy's first voyage as part of a boat crew.Charles is sad to be leaving his pregnant wife behind, but he finds his old detective spirit awakening in him when a man is murdered on his first night aboard ship. The captain asks him to investigate. Who would have thought it would be so difficult to track down a murderer on a (somewhat) small boat? While he is investigating, there are misplaced clues, threats of mutiny, and another murder.And if the dangers of a murderer aboard ship aren't bad enough, Lenox is faced with even more danger in Egypt. In fact, I found it a little hard to believe that Lenox could handle so much peril in such a short time. In spite of that, I thoroughly enjoyed this mystery. I had to keep reading to find out whodunnit, and to see if all the threads would be tied up at the end. Very good, cozy, recommended, and I know I will read more in this series.(I received this book through Amazon's Vine Program.)
jclyde on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A solid mystery for fans of Victorian detective fiction and Patrick O'Brian - type sailing adventures. I didn't enjoy it quite as much as "A Beautiful Blue Death", which was one of the best mysteries I read last year, but the characters are rich and the writing well-researched.
noranydrop2read on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I enjoy Charles Finch. His Charles Lenox mysteries remind me of Agatha Christie in their drawing-room refinement and complex plots. A Burial at Sea is not my favorite. Although I love locked-door mysteries (and what better way to restrict the suspect pool than to send them off to sea?), a side-plot made the novel meander at the end, and the solution wasn't entirely satisfying. Charles Lenox is sent to the Suez Canal on an espionage mission, which in itself is odd, as Lenox seems an unlikely spy. I suppose that's the point - that he wouldn't be suspected, but it still feels off. Once the murder on the ship occurs, the story picks up. Lenox goes into detective mode to help the captain identify the culprit. Hints of mutiny add suspense, and this, the main part of the book, is quite satisfying. Once the ship reaches land, however, Lenox goes off on his espionage mission, and this is both disconnected to the earlier action and not terribly interesting. The killer's motives were a bit eye-rolling for me, but the solution was at least logical. Worth reading, I think, and enjoyable as a locked-room classic mystery, but ultimately flawed. Don't let this one stop you from picking up one of the others in the series - this is not representative.
NewsieQ on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
It¿s 1873. Charles Lenox, Member of Parliament, detective, newlywed and father-to-be, sets sail on the Lucy, a ship of the Royal Navy, embarking on a long voyage to Egypt. He¿s on a secret intelligence-gathering mission for Queen Victoria. Soon, his rusty detective skills are in demand ¿ when the captain asks Lenox to solve the murder of one of the ship¿s officers, who was well-liked by all, or at least all save one. Our hero hopes to speak with everybody aboard ship: the captain, the officers, the young midshipmen (including his nephew Teddy), the ship¿s doctor, and even the grizzled old salts. Lenox hopes the information he gathers will help him figure out what happened. The officer¿s murder is quite grizzly and both Lenox and the captain believe time is of the essence. If they don¿t nab the culprit, he may kill again. Then, of course, he does ¿ and it¿s a race to find the killer before the ship lands in Port Said.Charles Finch¿s writing is rich with period detail, with descriptions of life aboard ship so vivid that readers are able to almost smell the salty sea air. For the first 250 pages or so, the story is set on the Lucy. And by the time Lucy arrives in Egypt, the resolution of Lenox¿s murder investigation is 99.9% complete. In my mind, the story was over. But, of course, there¿s still Lenox¿s mission in Egypt, and about 50 more pages to go. To call that sub-plot anti-climactic would be understatement. Although I truly enjoyed the sea-going story, the Egyptian sub-plot seemed like an afterthought, just tacked on to the end to reach a page-count. I usually don¿t speed-read when I¿m reading for pleasure. But, I must confess, I blasted through the last 50 pages.Although I was disappointed a tad, that won¿t put me off the Charles Lenox mysteries. They are splendid historical mysteries that, even if slightly flawed, are still better than most in that sub-genre. I¿m still a big fan! Review based on publisher-provided copy of the book.
thornton37814 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Charles Lenox, member of Parliament, is asked to go to the Suez Canal on official business. Aboard the naval ship, one of the officers is murdered. The captain asks Lenox to investigate. Before long there is a mutiny attempt, then another murder. Lenox must determine which sailor is behind the murders. This was my first venture into this series. I found Lenox a likeable enough sleuth, but I had some questions that went unanswered because I had not read the previous installments. The author probably did not provide enough background in places for those new to the series. I also felt his reason for going to Egypt was a bit contrived and unrealistic. I was also a little disappointed in the manner in which the fate of the ship criminal was resolved. I have had earlier installments on my wish list, and I do want to go back and read some of those. This book was received through LibraryThing's Early Reviewer program with the expectation that a review would be written.
clue on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Another in the Charles Lenox Victorian series. I admire the author for leaving London and taking to the sea. He must have done a tremendous amount of research, the life on the Lucy seemed very believable...I learned a lot about being in the Royal Navy and daily life on one of her ships in the 1800s.
Joanie2016 More than 1 year ago
A Burial at Sea, book 5 in the series, is my favorite so far. Here, Charles find himself at sea aboard the Lucy on a clandestine mission for the British government to make a connection with a French agent in Egypt. With the majority of the action and murder(s) taking place while at sea, I thought that the story would become claustrophobic yet the author does a brilliant job of creating a downright sinister murder scenario with Lenox's life being put in great jeopardy once he closed in on the killer. This time there are none of the beloved support characters present, lady Jane, Graham, Dr. McConnell or John Dallington are left behind in London and with much trepidation, Charles and Jane just found out that Jane is pregnant. But he had already accept this assignment from his brother before they knew of Jane's pregnancy. With the exception of Lenox's sweet young nephew Teddy, on his first naval juncture, Lenox is entirely on his won and he does a fantastic job of taking the reader along on a fine, albeit, angst-filled, adventure. I adore this series and it makes me sad that I will soon be caught up and will have to wait yearly for a new release in a wonderful series.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Very good
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I have all his books love them 1-1-2013
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Really good and very glow details. Indeed very good!