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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. 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.
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The ship's captain begs the temporarily retired detective to join in the hunt for a criminal. 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.
He lives in Oxford. 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 , 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. They clasped hands. The house being the one they had grown up in together, Lenox House. Charles furrowed his brow. 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. Now he surprised Charles again. He poured them each a glass of Scotch whisky. I report to him. This favor? 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. The Counterfeit Heiress. Nine for the Devil. Mary Reed. The Broken Token.
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