I must admit, I’m not much for “prequels” to books, movies, or television series. But an exception to this feeling is the admiration I have for a trilogy of prequels Charles Finch has penned in his bestselling Charles Lenox series.
The latest, and final, book in the trilogy is The Last Passenger, which just reached the bookstores.
It’s 1855 in London, when the body of a young man is found slumped over in a third-class railroad car at Paddington Station. The fellow has been brutally murdered, gutted and left to die in a huge pool of blood.
The victim has no baggage, empty pockets, and no identification. Even the labels have been cut from every item of clothing he’s wearing.
Charles Lenox, as readers of the earlier works know, is the second son of an aristocrat, well educated, handsome, unmarried, and his own man. While tradition expects “second sons” to either enter the ministry or the military to make their way in the world, Lenox has stubbornly chosen to become a detective, a decision which his family supports, but which has cost him the friendships of many of his peers who refuse to interact with someone who works for a living.
Lenox has slowly earned the grudging respect from some Scotland Yard officials (not all) and is rather surprised to be asked to help with this strange case.
After several frustrating days in which he makes no progress, Lenox suddenly realizes that the victim’s clothing is from America. With that link, he soon identifies the fellow as Eleazer Gilman, a member of Congress in England seeking support for the growing abolition movement in America. Lenox also learns a second American, Norman Haase, had died earlier in a strange “accident,” and the third member of the party, former slave and eloquent speaker Abram Tiptree, has been brutally attacked.
Now that Lenox knows the victim’s identity, his investigation proceeds fairly quickly. He discovers that even though England has already outlawed slavery, many English citizens are still in favor of such an atrocious practice and are in cahoots with slave traders smuggling slaves into America.
Lenox also has his own personal problems to face.
He’s nearly 30 years of age, and, as his mother points out, in need of a wife and children. The London season is in full swing and his neighbor and dear friend, Lady Jane Deere is more than happy to arrange for him to meet proper candidates. One young lady, Kitty, actually catches Lenox’s eye. Just as Lenox decides he can love Kitty, she abruptly announces her engagement to another.
In the meantime, Lady Jane’s husband, Lord John Deere, has been posted to a military appointment in India. Before he leaves, he extracts a promise from Lenox to look after his beloved Jane. When word arrives in London of Lord Deere’s sudden death in India, Lenox suddenly comes to a full realization about his own life.
Now that the trilogy is complete, readers can look forward to continued works in the series, which stretch into the 1870s. They are among the most well-written and developed books on the market today.
Stokely Memorial Library now has The Last Passenger, along with Finch’s other works. If you’re a newcomer to the series, I suggest you begin with the first work in the triology, The Woman in the Water, and read forward chronologically. You’ll be glad to did!
Located at 383 East Broadway, Stokely Memorial Library is open Mondays—Saturdays from 10-5 and may be reached by telephone at 423-623-3832.