Old-fashioned ratiocination, done up with all the Victorian bells and whistles.
When Lady Jane’s former upstairs maid Prue dies, presumably by her own hand, the gentlewoman calls on her good friend, Charles Lenox—an amateur sleuth who’s also a Roman antiquities scholar and a lover of maps, a good pipe and a decent cup of tea—to investigate. Searching the gel’s digs at the Barnard household, Lenox discovers several clues: a bottle of rare and expensive blue indigo poison, a forged suicide note, a leaf, a candle and diverse suspicious guests in residence, including two politicians, two nephews, one financier, Prue’s footman fiancé and of course Barnard himself, a Director of the Royal Mint, who was safeguarding crates of the nation’s gold in a locked room. Dumb Inspector Exeter of the Yard is called in, but makes little headway, so Lenox sends his man Graham, his brother Edmund et al. to reconnoiter. Another fatality is scheduled for the season’s main event, Barnard’s ball. Untangling the ties between the deaths solves the case in time for Lenox and Lady Jane to contemplate more congenial companions.
Finch’s rudimentary writing skills are enlivened now and then by bits of London history. On the whole, though, most Sherlockians can skip this unengaging debut without risk.