Series: Sebastian St. Cyr #10
Published by NAL on March 3, 2015
Genres: Historical Fiction, Mystery
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The grisly murder of a West Indies slave owner and the reappearance of a dangerous enemy from Sebastian St. Cyr’s past combine to put C. S. Harris’s “troubled but compelling antihero” (Booklist) to the ultimate test in this taut, thrilling mystery.
London, 1813. The vicious decapitation of Stanley Preston, a wealthy, socially ambitious plantation owner, at Bloody Bridge draws Sebastian St. Cyr, Viscount Devlin, into a macabre and increasingly perilous investigation. The discovery near the body of an aged lead coffin strap bearing the inscription King Charles, 1648 suggests a link between this killing and the beheading of the deposed seventeenth-century Stuart monarch. Equally troubling, the victim’s kinship to the current Home Secretary draws the notice of Sebastian’s powerful father-in-law, Lord Jarvis, who will exploit any means to pursue his own clandestine ends.
Working in concert with his fiercely independent wife, Hero, Sebastian finds his inquiries taking him from the wretched back alleys of Fish Street Hill to the glittering ballrooms of Mayfair as he amasses a list of suspects who range from an eccentric Chelsea curiosity collector to the brother of an unassuming but brilliantly observant spinster named Jane Austen.
But as one brutal murder follows another, it is the connection between the victims and ruthless former army officer Sinclair, Lord Oliphant, that dramatically raises the stakes. Once, Oliphant nearly destroyed Sebastian in a horrific wartime act of carnage and betrayal. Now the vindictive former colonel might well pose a threat not only to Sebastian but to everything—and everyone—Sebastian holds most dear.
Sebastian St. Cyr is drawn to a case where the victim, Stanley Preston, was beheaded after being stabbed. Preston was the cousin of the Home Secretary so it is a high profile murder with a host of equally high profile suspects, including Simon Oliphant. Needless to say, it puts Sebastian and his family in the killer’s crosshairs.
This was one of the more intriguing stories in the series. I especially liked how historical figures such as Jane Austen and Henry Addington were skillfully incorporated into the plot. The author created an environment that could be construed to have impacted Austen’s stories. And, England’s macabre history of beheadings was center stage.
It was also lovely to see Sebastian and Hero’s relationship continue to deepen. Even her research of the world of costermongers (had never heard of them before) created a perfect backdrop for much of the story, described so vividly I could easily picture their existence and the contrast to the gentry.
I loved everything about this story, including its moral conflicts and historical relevance. There were many surprises and the level of danger was more palpable than the others. I’m saddened, though, that I’ll be caught up after the next book. I’ve looked forward to my monthly Sebastian fix.