The Vanishing Man

Charles Finch. Minotaur, $26.99 (304p) ISBN 978-1-250-31136-8

An intriguing plot redeems in part Finch’s otherwise disappointing 12th Charles Lenox mystery (after 2018’s The Woman in the Water), the middle of a prequel trilogy. In 1853, Lenox, who has set himself up as a private investigator, is retained by the Duke of Dorset to look into the theft of a painting from his London home. Oddly, the duke, who declares that the artwork is of little consequence to him, wants Lenox just to identify the thief. The detective is even more startled to learn that the burglar made off with a family portrait while leaving behind something much more valuable, what the aristocrat claims to be “the only existing oil painting from life of the writer William Shakespeare.” A kidnapping and a murder follow, both of which may be related to a rumored lost Shakespeare play. Some interludes, including the Wodehousian banter between Lenox and his valet, Graham, fall flat, and the characterization isn’t up to the standard of earlier entries in the series. Hopefully, Finch will return to form next time. 75,000-copy announced first printing. Agent: Elizabeth Weed, Book Group. (Feb.)