on 31 August 2009
I usually do better research when I buy a mystery novel. For some reason unknown to myself I started this series with book number four. In some ways I'm sorry I did that, but in others I just can't be sorry about reading such a fine novel.
Sebastian St. Cyr is one of those "gentleman" sleuths who wandered about Regency London in search of a puzzle to solve. Except that doesn't even begin to describe what actually happens in this story. C. S. Harris has written a wonderful novel with so many layers to her characters that I felt at times as if I had jumped in at the deep end of the pool. It probably would have been better to have started with the first book, just to get all the characters into their proper pigeonholes. Since I made a mistake and read the fourth book first I just had to try a little harder to catch up. And catch up I did. This book can be a stand-alone. Kat and Sebastian ended their relationship eight months previously. The revelation for why that relationship ended is something I've never encountered before in a period mystery. I was actually shocked when I first realized what had happened. Kat has since married someone else and Sebastian has been trying to drown his sorrows by staying drunk. When he is first presented with the question of whether or not to help Hero Jarvis uncover the reason for the brutal murders of the prostitutes in a safe house he doesn't want to become involved. However, the temptation to use any means possible to get back at Hero's father is just too tempting for him to resist. He will use the daughter to get to his sworn enemy.
My main reason for giving this book 4 stars instead of 5 comes from the sheer number of victims. After a while I actually lost count of how many people died during the telling of this story. I love to read mystery stories, I especially love to read period mystery stories. This is a superb example of the genre. But, I found myself thinking, "Oh no, not another one!" This is not a mystery for the faint of heart, nor someone with a vivid imagination and a stomach easily made queasy. Yet, even after saying all of that I would highly recommend this book to a friend. I would just make sure they know it contains quite a bit of detail which might make them uncomfortable. The descriptions of the London streets and neighborhoods were vivid and colorful. I could almost smell the fish market, the alleyways. The prostitutes and other characters came alive in my imagination because of the word pictures painted by Ms Harris.
This author took some chances. She dealt with two controversial subjects in this book and handled them both very well. Even though I know what caused the break up of Kat and Sebastian I will still go back and read the first three books. Now that is the sign of good writing!
First Sentence: The girl stared out the window, one hand sliding up and down her shawl-covered arm in a ceaseless, uneasy motion.
Hero Jarvis is a reformist working on a theory as to what drives women to prostitution. She is also daughter to a cousin of the Prince regent. While interviewing one of the women, Rose, who had clearly been a gentlewoman, men break into Magdalene House, a shelter for women trying to escape the life, with Rose the object of the search. Rose and Hero escape the house, but Rose is shot and killed.
Hero appeals for help in finding out who Rose really was and why she turned to prostitution, to Sebastian St. Cyr, Viscount Devlin. When Devlin learns all the women in the house had been murdered and the house burnt down and any investigation stopped, he agrees to help her
Each time I start a new book, I hope for the best and I certainly got it here. As with all of Harris' books, this was a don't-bother-me-I'm- reading, one-stop read.
The characters are wonderful. Hero is an intelligent, gutsy, independent and appropriately named. Devlin is a former soldier, recovering from heartbreak and in need of a new challenge. Then there is Tom, 14-year-old former pickpocket now Devlin's `tiger' who takes care of the horses, James Calhoon, the son-of-a-prostitute valet, and Paul Gibson, invalid ex-army doctor who conducts autopsies. All the characters are well done and actual historical characters are used in realistic, appropriate ways.
Harris provides a detailed view into both the ballrooms and the back alleys of Regency England. Devlin may be fighting for his life in the afternoon and heading off to Almak's in the evening. Both events are handled with style and panache.
I love good dialogue. Ms. Harris does provide good dialogue. There's a wonderful scene where Devlin is talking with a Calhoun's mother, who has a thick Gordie accent and there are times Calhoun has to translate for him. The story is very well done.
At one point, I was having trouble seeing how everything fit together, but Harris brought it all together in a way that made sense without at all stretching credulity. Even the romance made sense to the story and the ending was so well done. Now my only regret is having to wait another year for the next book.
on 15 April 2009
This book, which is one novel in a series by C.S. Harris, is great. The period is well portrayed, and the characters are extremely well developed. I have read each book in the series and eagerly await for the next to come out.
on 23 July 2014
Once again, author C.S. Harris sends our awesome Sebastian right into the bowels of hell as he assists Hero Jarvis in helping to determine why 8 women were killed in a fire at the Magdalen House - a kind of refuge/home for prostitutes sponsored by the Society of Friends. Hero was doing research at the house in her efforts to get a bill passed in Parliament for the relief of indigent females when the home is overrun by persons intent on doing harm to some of the residents. Rose, the prostitute Hero is interviewing goes nuts believing they are there to kill her and indeed, although Hero escapes, Rose is shot, the house is set on fire and 8 women burn up.
Since Hero knows the fire was set to hide the fact that at least one woman was shot, she goes to Sebastian for assistance in determining why Rose was a target of murder. Sebastian has had 8 months of wildness, drinking, riding to the hounds in his ongoing spiral toward destruction in his efforts to deal with his situation with Kat Boleyn. Of course, his actions aren't doing the job, so this reader is ever so thankful for Hero's intervention in his life to give Sebastian something to preoccupy his mind and heart, even if it is dealing with the dark world of crime and criminals.
This storyline gives Sebastian and Hero a lot of time together and sets up their relationship for some interesting choices for their respective futures. Although I do like Hero, I find her a little too cold for my taste but what can one expect having been raised by her evil, conniving, cold, hard father - Charles Jarvis. I find the fact that Hero seems to have a fairly good relationship with her father of some concern. Nevertheless, her time with Sebastian can only serve to soften her up. He is, after all, one of the most kind, sincere, loyal and honorable heroes of this genre that I have ever had the pleasure of enjoining myself with in a story. I. absolutely. love. Sebastian.
As the story progresses, we learn that Rose was from a genteel family and indeed, our hearts bleed for her situation and the dark happenings in her life that led her to become a prostitute. Again, it is a very dark subject and one that resonates deeply within our contemporary world. As always, Sebastian is there to poke and prod and aggravate people until he can get it all figured it out, but this time he has some remarkable assistance in the person of Hero and she is truly amazing.
**Spoiler** A big event takes place towards the end that will have personal repercussions for the rest of Sebastian's and Hero's lives. Yes, I do think we will see a lot of Sebastian and Hero in the future as in a new kind of togetherness.