A Beautiful Blue Death is the first in a series of historical mysteries about an amateur detective in Victorian London. Charles Lenox is a gentleman who spends his time planning exotic trips he never goes on, reading by the fire, and solving mysteries. He is sometimes assisted by his older brother Edmund who not so secretly envies his brother's adventures and loves to help out if he can, and well as his butler Graham. His latest mystery comes about when his dear friend Lady Jane asks him to look into the death of her former servant Prudence "Prue" Smith. After leaving Lady Jane's employ Prue sought work in Mr. Bernard's house where her fiancee was also employed. All seemed well and yet a suicide note, a bottle of poison, and Prue's deceased body would indicate otherwise. Charles suspects that foul play rather than suicide was at play. Inspector Exeter is none too thrilled to have Charles poking around the case, but even he must admit that Charles has an impressive record when it comes to crime solving.
I had a difficult time getting into this story. It felt like it was written in accordance with a checklist. As in, wealthy, single male who solves crimes as a hobby, primarily through deduction and guesswork. Check. Sidekick who is smart but not as not smart as the detective and in some way socially inferior to the detective. Check. Police officer whose main purpose is to mock and get in the way of the detective. Check. Following a set of rules or basing characters on well-known literary tropes can be a good starting point but then the author has to add something more to flesh out the story, to make it unique, to make it memorable. That was missing here. The characters were more character types rather than characters who could be believable entities in their own right. The murder mystery had a promising start started but quickly got bogged down. The story did pick up towards the end, but not enough to redeem all that came before. This wasn't a very long book (309 pages in the edition I have) but it still felt bloated.
One thing that was evident in the writing was how much the author loves the era of Victorian England. I rather like this time period myself, which is one reason why I was looking forward to this book. Unfortunately, it just didn't quite come together. Overall, I'd say this was decent. Only time will tell if it was enough to compel me to continue with the series.