This Kindle-edition short story fits, chronologically, between A Stranger in Mayfair and A Burial at Sea in the Charles Lenox mystery series by Charles Finch, and is probably really only worth reading if you’re already into the series and a completist. It’s not that this is bad, it’s just that the full-length novels in this series are so much better.

An East End Murder begins, not surprisingly, with a body: it’s 1865 and Charles Lenox, detective, is at a crime scene in the Seven Dials neighborhood of London, looking at the corpse of a man named Phil Jiggs, who seems to have been strangled. Lenox knows a woman in the area from a previous case, so he goes to talk to her the next day; she points him to the Plug brothers, proprietors of a clothing shop: she says they were friends with Jiggs and would know more about him. Lenox learns from the Plugs that Jiggs didn’t have any enemies, but was recently robbed twice: it’s a rough neighborhood, though, with lots of crime. Because he was broke after the robberies, Jiggs had been staying at a nearby church, so Lenox heads there next and talks to the Reverend Tilton, who echoes what the Plug brothers said: Jiggs kept out of trouble. Everyone Lenox talks to agrees, except for one man, James Mason, who says Jiggs was a troublemaker who didn’t mind his own business. Lenox carries on investigating, and figures things out pretty quickly: this is quite a short story. Because of the story’s brevity, there’s not much room for character development, though there is some good historical detail/scene-setting, like when the Plug brothers explain the sign in their shop for “ratty pockets” (they’re large-pocketed pants for rat catchers, it turns out, and Jiggs was a rat catcher).

The short story is bundled with the first four chapters of A Burial at Sea, which I read and thoroughly enjoyed, even having already read that book: when he’s writing at greater length, Finch’s style is satisfyingly descriptive. Re-reading those four chapters prompted me to go place a hold on Home by Nightfall (number nine in the series) at the library: I’d read the eighth book in 2014 but didn’t pick up the ninth when it came out the following year, and now I’m in the mood for more of this series and its world.

Leave a Reply

Subscribe without commenting