Why Kill the Innocent
#13 Sebastian St. Cyr Mystery
By CS Harris
Penguin Random House | Berkley
Formats available: Hardback, Electronic, Audio
Pub Date: 4.3.18| 368 pages
REVIEWER: Sophia Rose
A brutal murder draws nobleman Sebastian St. Cyr into the tangled web of the British royal court in this gripping historical mystery from the national bestselling author of Where the Dead Lie.
London, 1814. As a cruel winter holds the city in its icy grip, the bloody body of a beautiful young musician is found half-buried in a snowdrift. Jane Ambrose’s ties to Princess Charlotte, the only child of the Prince Regent and heir presumptive to the throne, panic the palace, which moves quickly to shut down any investigation into the death of the talented pianist. But Sebastian St. Cyr, Viscount Devlin, and his wife Hero refuse to allow Jane’s murderer to escape justice.
Untangling the secrets of Jane’s world leads Sebastian into a maze of dangerous treachery where each player has his or her own unsavory agenda and no one can be trusted. As the Thames freezes over and the people of London pour onto the ice for a Frost Fair, Sebastian and Hero find their investigation circling back to the palace and building to a chilling crescendo of deceit and death . https://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/books/551053/why-kill-the-innocent-by-c-s-harris/9780399585623.
Royal intrigue, a gifted female musician, London’s Frost Fair on the River Thames, Rothschild gold, and a cunning mystery draw Sebastian and Hero into a dangerous, wintry hunt.
The story opens with Hero stumbling over the nearly frozen body of Jane Ambrose, piano teacher to Princess Charlotte. The palace covers up the death, but Hero and Sebastian take up the investigation. They soon work out that any number of people, mostly powerful, are on the list of suspects.
Harris never ceases to amaze me how she is able to take the details of history, Regency era, in this case, and turn them into a cunning suspense. The main thread of this story is the tragic life and death of a talented woman set against social issues of the day: impressment of men into the Navy while their families were left destitute without them, the many minor crimes that were hanging offenses, the fate of women married to abusive men, women with talent who must suppress this or let men take credit for their work, banking houses profiting from the war, royal house power struggles, suppression of the press’ free speech, famine of hard winter, and more. I like how the social issues of the day are analyzed by Sebastian and Hero so that many aspects are revealed and thought through as they get to the heart of the matter.
Along with her gift to create fabulous historical settings and situations for her story, there are also her fantastic characters. I fell in love with Sebastian St. Cyr, Lord Devlin and his ongoing story from the first book, What Angels Fear. Sebastian is aristocracy, a former soldier, a child born of his mother’s infidelity, has a lost love in his past and a new love in his present. Life’s experiences give him a unique outlook and the skills to serve out justice for the dead. He’s not infallible or untouchable. His errors have cost him deeply, but he grows and strengthens as the series progresses. He has learned so many secrets about his own past and another clue crops up, even now, when he least expects it about his mother’s secret past.
I love how he sees his wife not only as the woman he loves and wants to protect, but Hero is is partner in all things. They solve the murders together, but, when not working a case, he does not interfere with Hero’s important work among the poor classes. Hero investigates issues affecting the poor and writes up her finding calling for reform. Sebastian is not intimidated by her strong will or her choices. I love seeing them share intimacy and private moments as a couple and as parents to their young son. The author captures their eccentricity as individuals and a couple in that time, but also balances this just right so it never feels over the top or fake just to make them sensational. They are both very much aware of societies rules and just how far is too far and the consequences of crossing the wrong line.
Beyond the main pair of the story, the author doesn’t stint on several other recurring minor characters who make up Sebastian’s circle with their own backgrounds and stories ongoing. Hero’s powerful father, Lord Jarvis, who ruthlessly wields the power behind the throne and is up to his neck in intrigue, Sebastian’s Irish surgeon friend Paul and the enigmatic French midwife Alexis who assist with the medical evidence side of the cases, Sebastian’s father the Earl of Hendon, loyal Tom his street-wise servant, and, of late, I am very curious about Hero’s mother’s cousin Victoria and what she is up to as she insinuates herself into Jarvis’ household and seems in on his schemes.
There was a tight mystery plot, lots of twists as Sebastian and Hero work to uncover the truth, and all that delicious family and palace intrigue. I anticipate each new Sebastian story and go into a bit of reading funk when I’ve finished the latest. WHY KILL THE INNOCENT is no exception. While this is a historical murder mystery, I think those who enjoy historical fiction that provides well-drawn characters, authentic historical elements, complex character and action-driven plots should give the series a go.