A Sebastian St. Cyr Mystery, No 6
2011/ ISBN 9780451232236
Historical Mystery / England-1812
by L J Roberts
First Sentence: A cool wind gusted up, rustling the branches
of the trees overhead and bringing with it the unmistakable clatter
of wooden wheels approaching over cobblestones.
Sebastian St. Cyr, Viscount Devlin, is surprised by an early morning
visit from his friend Paul Gibson. Paul, surgeon who practices dissection
and autopsies, received a body from the snatchers. The young man
was said to have died of a heart attack but was murdered.
Who better to turn then Devlin, an investigator with a staunch
belief in justice?
Complications and matters of international intrigue arise when it’s
learned that the deceased had worked for the Undersecretary of State
for the Foreign Office. On a personal level, during an investigation
two months prior, Devlin found himself in a life-threatening situation
with Hero Jarvis, daughter of an enemy to his family. The situation
resulted in the need for Devlin and Hero to marry. While neither
father is happy about it, Devlin is learning Hero might make a better
match for him than he’d have guessed.
Ms. Harris, without prologue or portent, draws you into a story
from the first page and compels you to read on. Her dialogue reflects
both the period and the economic status of each character, reflecting
her attention to detail. Ms. Harris’ use of humor, even black
humor, brings light to the dark.
With well-written descriptions, Ms. Harris paints visual pictures
and provides a very strong sense of time and place. This is enhanced
by the elements of historical information which not only add veracity
to the story, but are fascinating and evidential of the author’s
research on such things as the Bills of Mortality; information on
deaths compiled by the elderly women in each parish for more than
200 years prior to 1812. There are, however, a lot of political
maneuverings which are a bit confusing. The inclusion of a map would
have been very helpful.
It is with the characters and their story that this book lets the
reader down, particularly as compared to previous books in the series.
I had to remind myself that the protagonist, St. Cyr, is not yet
30 years old and has received a major shock in learning that his
past is not at all when he had been raised to believe. At the same
time, he is a former soldier, and so the machinations and emotional
angst are becoming a bit of a soap opera and his having preternaturally
acute hearing and sight gets to be a bit much. The secondary protagonist
of Hero Jarvis is delightfully independent and forward-thinking,
while mindful of the rules and her role in society, but it did seem
unlikely she would be quite as sanguine as she was in certain situations.
But they are surrounded by other, quite wonderful characters, including
the doctor and anatomist Gibson, St. Cyr’s young ‘tiger’
Tom and his majordomo Gibson.
Even with the weakness of the characters, “Where Shadows
Dance” was an enjoyable book to read and fit well within the
series, which should be read in order. It will be interesting to
see where Ms. Harris takes the series from here. One hopes for more
plot and less soap.