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Excerpt from The Woman in the Water by Charles Finch, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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The Woman in the Water

A Prequel to the Charles Lennox Series

by Charles Finch

The Woman in the Water by Charles Finch X
The Woman in the Water by Charles Finch
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     Not Yet Rated
  • First Published:
    Feb 2018, 304 pages

    Paperback:
    Jan 2019, 320 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Donna Chavez
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CHAPTER ONE

For a little more than an hour on that May morning in 1850, the only sound in the flat in St. James's Square was the rustling of newspapers, punctuated occasionally by the crisp shear of a pair of sharpened scissors through newsprint.

There were two men at the highly polished breakfast table by the window, three stories above street level. One was in an impeccable gray suit, the other in a ratty brown smoking jacket. Both were too intent upon their work to glance out from this high vantage at their panoramic view of the soft spring day: the shy sunlight; the irregular outlines of the two nearby parks, lying serene within the smoke and stone of the city; the new leaves upon the trees, making their innocent green way into life, on branches still so skinny that they quivered like the legs of a foal.

Finally Charles Lenox—the one in the smoking jacket—threw down the last of his newspapers.

"Ha! Done," he said. "You're as slow as a milk train, Graham."

There was a teapot on the table, and Lenox poured himself another cup from it, adding a spoonful of sugar from a small silver bowl. He took a satisfied bite from a piece of cinnamon toast whose existence he had previously forgotten, and which had been prepared by the discreetly well dressed man sitting opposite him, his valet.

"It's not speed but quality of attention that matters, sir," Graham said. He didn't look up from his own newspaper, the second-to-last of a towering pile.

"What a lot of nonsense," replied Lenox, rising and stretching his arms out. "Anyway, I'll get dressed while you finish. How many have you got so far?"

"Nine, sir."

"Ten for me."

Graham's pile of clipped articles was much tidier than Lenox's. But he did look up now—as if tempted to say something less than entirely respectful—and then gave his familiar slight smile, shook his head, and resumed his study. He was a compact, sandy-haired person, with a face that was gentle and temperate but looked as if it could keep a secret.

There were few people Lenox cared for or trusted more.

When the young master of the house emerged again, he was changed out of his shabby jacket and into a handsome suit of his own, a heather gray two shades lighter than Graham's and perhaps thirty times as expensive. Such was life in England: Lenox had been born to a family of aristocrats, Graham to a family of tenant farmers. Yet they were true friends. Graham had been Lenox's scout throughout his three years at Balliol College, Oxford, and following Lenox's graduation seven months before had moved to London with him as his manservant—seven months, for Lenox, of exhilaration, missteps, uncertainty, and novelty.

Why? Because as his peers from Oxford were settling into the usual pursuits, Lenox was trying, against the better advice of nearly every soul he encountered, and so far with absolutely no success at all, to become something that did not exist: a private detective.

He was also, most unhappily, in love.

Graham was done now. "How many did you finish with?"

Lenox asked this question as he peered into an oval mirror and straightened his tie. He had a bright face, with a very short-clipped beard and light brown hair and eyes. He still did not quite believe himself to be an adult. But evidently he was, for he was the possessor of these airy and spacious rooms in the heart of Mayfair.

This one, large and central, had the atmosphere of a gentlemen's club. There were books scattered about it, comfortable armchairs, and handsome oil paintings on the wall, though the brightness of the sunlight in the windows made it feel less confined than most gentlemen's clubs. It also contained (to his knowledge) no slumbering gentlemen, whereas gentlemen's clubs generally did, in Lenox's experience. There were tokens here and there of his two great interests, besides detection, that was. These were travel and the world of Ancient Rome. There was a small—but authentic—bust of Marcus Aurelius tilted window-ward on one bookshelf, and everywhere were numerous stacks of maps, many of them much-marked and overcrossed with penciled itineraries, fantasies of adventure. Russia was his current preoccupation.

Excerpted from The Woman in the Water by Charles Finch. Copyright © 2018 by Charles Finch. Excerpted by permission of Minotaur Books. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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