Monday, March 16, 2015

Review: Who Buries the Dead by C.S Harris



Who Buries the Dead is the 10th instalment in the fantastic Sebastian St. Cyr series. The series continues to move at a fast pace, that leaves this reader satisfied. C.S. Harris stands out for me in the historical, murder, mystery genre for her ability to keep me guessing until the end as to whom the murderer is. In ten books, I've only managed to work it out once, but couldn't figure out how the murder went down. This was my most anticipated release for 2015 and it left me wanting more.

From GR:

The grisly murder of a West Indies slave owner and the reappearance of a dangerous enemy from Sebastian St. Cyr’s past combine to put C. S. Harris’s “troubled but compelling antihero” (Booklist) to the ultimate test in this taut, thrilling mystery.

London, 1813. The vicious decapitation of Stanley Preston, a wealthy, socially ambitious plantation owner, at Bloody Bridge draws Sebastian St. Cyr, Viscount Devlin, into a macabre and increasingly perilous investigation. The discovery near the body of an aged lead coffin strap bearing the inscription King Charles, 1648 suggests a link between this killing and the beheading of the deposed seventeenth-century Stuart monarch. Equally troubling, the victim’s kinship to the current Home Secretary draws the notice of Sebastian’s powerful father-in-law, Lord Jarvis, who will exploit any means to pursue his own clandestine ends.

Working in concert with his fiercely independent wife, Hero, Sebastian finds his inquiries taking him from the wretched back alleys of Fish Street Hill to the glittering ballrooms of Mayfair as he amasses a list of suspects who range from an eccentric Chelsea curiosity collector to the brother of an unassuming but brilliantly observant spinster named Jane Austen.

But as one brutal murder follows another, it is the connection between the victims and ruthless former army officer Sinclair, Lord Oliphant, that dramatically raises the stakes. Once, Oliphant nearly destroyed Sebastian in a horrific wartime act of carnage and betrayal. Now the vindictive former colonel might well pose a threat not only to Sebastian but to everything—and everyone—Sebastian holds most dear.


Non spoilery review.



Once again C.S. Harris brings London vividly to life. From the crossing sweepers, who swept dirty paths in return for a small payment, to costermongers, who sold fruit, vegetables and fish from carts, to the smell and obscene wealth that the gentry lived amongst. It is against this backdrop that I read and loved Who Buries the Dead. The author also touches on collectors of the time and some of the more interesting items they liked to collect and display to visitors. I can't say I would like to have some of the items in my home.

The twists and turns of the novel make it impossible for me to work out who murdered Stanley Preston. We follow along with Sebastian as he discounts theories and suspects. Why do suspects never tell the whole truth? Just when you think you might have figured out who the murderer could be, evidence shows you are dead wrong. As the bodies start to mount, Sebastian is in a race to uncover the killer before anyone else is killed. Unfortunately it will take more deaths before he is able to uncover the truth.

For the first time it felt like we get to see Sebastian's demons from when he was a soldier and it's now far easier for me to understand why he has insomnia. I couldn't sleep either if I had experienced what he had. I like how the novels continue to peel back the layers of Sebastian's past. Each new book revealing a little bit more. In this instance we got a deluge of information. Thank you C.S. Harris!! The appearance of Lord Oliphant further fuels the memories that Sebastian spent time trying to forget in a haze of alcohol in earlier books. 

It also felt like me that as Sebastian wrestled with his demons it brought Hero and him closer together. Hero is the perfect balance for Sebastian. I feel as the series goes on that they complement each other so well and neither is trying to change the other. Of course being married to Hero means that our favourite dodgy character and peer of the realm, Lord Jarvis, continue to dance around each other. They are prepared to use each other if it suits their own purposes. 

My favourite moment is the fact that Aunt Henrietta knows the dirt on everyone, and I mean she seriously knows everyone's dirty little secrets. Once again this proves to be a valuable source of information for Sebastian. Her presence is always formidable and she's a wonderful character through the series.

There was a death in the book that I'm not that happy about. In fact it was one of my favourite side characters and I'm unsure how it will affect the series.  It did have the feel that it is setting the scene for the next novel, but the death felt too soon and left me a little sad that we won't see the character again. Not happy!!!!

I can't wait for the next book due to two nuggets in Who Buries the Dead. All roads lead to Shropshire and what might be discovered there. There are so far two books to be out in the series and whilst it's a long wait until next year, it's going to be so worth it. There is always a reread after all.





I would love to hear of any historical murder mysteries you have enjoyed.

Cover image from Goodreads.

1 comment:

  1. This was just a delightful read. I applaud Harris so much for her ability to work historical details so wonderfully into her mysteries, and to make the mysteries themselves so fascinating. And while dropping in tidbits of Sebastian's own life and mysteries. It's just loads of fun and I hope this series will never end!

    Mariz
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