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Where Shadows Dance
A Sebastian St. Cyr Mystery, No 6

2011/ ISBN 9780451232236
Historical Mystery / England-1812

Reviewed 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.

Reviews of other titles in the series

What Angels Fear # 1
When Gods Die # 2
Where Serpents Sleep # 4
Where Shadows Dance # 6
When Maidens Mourn #7 [review 1] [review 2]
Why Kings Confess # 9 [review 1] [review 2]

Reviewed 2011