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Saturday, February 21, 2015

Review - Who Buries the Dead

Today I review the newest in the Sebastian St. Cyr historical mysteries.  Previously I reviewed "Why Kings Confess" (click here), "What Darkness Brings" (click here), "When Maidens Mourn" (click here), and "Where Shadows Dance" (click here).  We were also honored to interview C.S. Harris (click here.)  So how is the series doing now that we are into the tenth book?  Let's find out.

Author: C.S. Harris

Copyright: March 2015 (Obsidian) 352 pgs

Series: 10th in Sebastian St. Cyr Regency Mysteries

Sensuality: mild romance, some clinical discussion of mutilation-not too graphic.

Mystery Sub-genre: Historical Suspense

Main Character: Sebastian St. Cyr (Viscount Devlin) a veteran of the Peninsula wars with Napoleon and a nobleman. 

Setting: 1813 London England

Obtained Through: Publisher for honest review

Sebastian is called to assist/consult on a disturbing beheading of Stanley Preston, a quarrelsome Jamaican plantation owner who strives to climb the London social ladder and collects royal memorabilia (including a few heads). Somehow Preston's morbid hobby and his death are likely connected since a piece of King Charles' coffin strap is found at the murder, as well as his ties to Jamaica figure prominently.  Complicating matters is the return from Jamaica of Sebastian's old army commander, Lord Sinclair Oliphant, who engineered the slaughter of an orphanage run by nuns during the war.  An event which still fuels horrible nightmares for Sebastian, and has kept a vow alive to see Oliphant pay for the war crime.  The suspects begin to pile up as the victim's last few days are found to be chock full of explosive arguments with several people from curiosity sellers to prominent society members.  Shortly more beheaded corpses are popping up along with attempts on Sebastian's life.  Meanwhile, Sebastian and Hero both realize that they have much more to loose, as they are now emotionally invested in one another as their love deepens.

Sebastian is a Regency action hero, but this addition to the series delves more into his growth emotionally.  Sebastian's character is deepening and gaining more layers, which makes him even more charismatic.  Hero, my favorite of the novels, has taken a bit of a back seat with motherhood, but has become more of Sebastian's confident and sounding board.  I long for more stories where she can shine.  Jane Austen is woven into this story as an associate of the victim's family.  Jane's character is delightful and the references to London society caught up in her books to where people are categorized by being a "Colonel Brandon" or a "Willoughby" provides a light humorous touch.  Paul Gibson has a few small scenes as he is fighting his own inner demons that are debilitating him.  Lord Sinclair Oliphant, Sebastian's nemesis, is an example of a wealthy man with no moral code.  Jamie Knox, the mysterious tavern owner that suspiciously looks like Sebastian, has a few critical scenes in the story.  Lord Jarvis, Hero's father, demonstrates just how dangerous he is when his daughter is endangered in this installment.

As always, Ms. Harris displays London with a vibrant brush, exposing its beauty and its grim and harsh sides, and it's rich and it's dirt poor with equal dexterity.  The plot delves into two areas, Jamaican slave plantation ownership and the raiding of tombs (even royal tombs) for profit.  These are woven into the plot believably and provide period details as well as motives for murder.  The pacing moved along with the aid of heightened danger between the questioning of suspects.  The climax isn't in the form of a killer confrontation, but is nonetheless suspenseful.  The resolution provides a chilling end in one aspect and a chance at peace in another.

Ms. Harris takes Sebastian and Hero on another thrilling ride providing personal peril against a backdrop of cold amoral people with their own hidden agendas and shocking secrets under a thin veneer of blue blood society.  The characters continue to develop, the plots are multi-layered, and Regency London is faithfully portrayed.

Rating: Near Perfect - Buy two copies: one for you and one for a friend.

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