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Rich Atmospherics And Compelling Mystery... With One Caveat
on 10 June 2014
In many respects, Harris' latest installment was an improvement over the previous St. Cyr novels I have read - admittedly, that is only a few in the series, but the writing seems to have become more fluid, the characters nicely drawn, the mystery sufficiently perplexing. To say nothing of the transportive atmospherics, which proved shiver inducing when coupled with the descriptions of such a gruesome crime. Honestly, this has never my favorite in the midst of the deluge of excellent historicals currently on the market, though I must admit this latest had me fairly convinced Devlin may yet be included on my shelf of best detective fiction.
Character driven books are what I crave most of all. Ironically, for me, it was both this particular book's focal point - and main weakness. Much as I enjoyed the attention paid in drawing such vivid characters, their faults were presented more starkly because of it.
The sub plot with Hero's doctor was infuriating. As was Devlin's nail biting over it. Hero herself, though a good character by her own rights, is annoying in her dismissal of her doctor's advice, questionable as it is. Even in the early 19th century, some of those views may have been held, but they obviously were not the prevailing ones or else humanity would never have survived. Whatever high horse the author was on with that inclusion nearly made me close the book for good. That, and the instances of authorial preaching of political views, especially those that are twisted to appear relevant to the time period, but which are, in actuality, notably anachronistic, invariably turn me off.
I would very much like to forge ahead with this series, as the improvements with each new one seem to be striking, but only if the preachiness is toned down. As it stands, I do still feel it made for a strong entry, and for the most part was an enjoyable read.