Last year in April, I read this installment of the Sebastian St Cyr series and I while I thought it was good, it was only my fourth book of the series I had read so naturally I was missing a substantial amount of the character nuances.
This series as a whole, can be read as a stand alones for the most part, but there are a couple of books where the mysteries overlap and this being one of them. There are many characters from an earlier book, Where the Dead Lie, which was the first Sebastian book that I had read. The first time I read this installment, I felt as though I understood some of the back story.
But now that I have gone back and re-read the entire series beginning to end so that I can better understand the characters and such, I felt as though I enjoyed this one much better this time around given the scope of the character arcs and backstories.
When the handsome but dissolute young gentleman Lord Ashworth is found brutally murdered, Sebastian St. Cyr, Viscount Devlin, is called in by Bow Street magistrate Sir Henry Lovejoy to help catch the killer. Just seven months before, Sebastian had suspected Ashworth of aiding one of his longtime friends and companions in the kidnapping and murder of a string of vulnerable street children. But Sebastian was never able to prove Ashworth’s complicity. Nor was he able to prevent his troubled, headstrong young niece Stephanie from entering into a disastrous marriage with the dangerous nobleman.
Stephanie has survived the difficult birth of twin sons. But Sebastian soon discovers that her marriage has quickly degenerated into a sham. Ashworth abandoned his pregnant bride at his father’s Park Street mansion and has continued living an essentially bachelor existence. And mounting evidence–ranging from a small bloody handprint to a woman’s silk stocking–suggests that Ashworth’s killer was a woman. Sebastian is tasked with unraveling the shocking nest of secrets surrounding Ashworth’s life to keep Stephanie from being punished for his death. (summary from Goodreads)
Take Two Review
This time around I felt like I understood the relationship between Sebastian and his sister as well as his niece Stephanie much better. Though it didn’t change how I felt about Stephanie as a character, I felt as though there was a deeper understanding of the relationship thanks to the previous books in the series.
Lord Ashworth is a terrible person and I was not sorry to see him dead but I loved how this book called back to Where the Dead Lie. There were many of the same characters from that book as well as threads of the story that continued into this book. So if you haven’t read the series or at the very least read Where the Dead Lie, then I suggest waiting on this one as there are lots of little threads from that book. Initially I felt like it would read fine as a standalone book, but after considering it now that I have read the series all together, I think not.
As with all of Harris’s books in this series, they are well researched, historically authentic, and full atmosphere and grit. This one read more like a Law and Order SVU episode set in the 1800s and I loved it so much, in fact I loved it even more this time around than I did the first. I am now fully prepared for the upcoming release of the next book and I can’t wait to see what mystery Sebastian gets pulled into next!