Shadow of the Raven
Set in 18th-century England, this is a historical mystery wrapped in a romance, which is most likely a familiar theme for regular readers of Harris’s Dr. Thomas Silkstone Mystery series. Shadow of the Raven is her fifth installment but holds up as a standalone read. Dr. Thomas Silkstone of Philadelphia is a man of science: an anatomist, to be exact, with a personality as regimented as the ideals of the scientific method he adheres to in all aspects of life.
The reader meets Dr. Silkstone as he struggles to contact Lady Lydia Farrell, who is now being held, or rather committed, within the notorious Bethlem Hospital, better known as Bedlam. It seems that Lady Farrell, in a prior installment of the series, fell afoul of Sir Montagu Malthus, the caretaker for Brandwick Estate in Oxfordshire. The coroner of Oxford requested that Dr. Silkstone travel to consult on the mysterious shooting death of a friend, Jeffery Turgoose, on the very same estate.
Harris has almost all of the elements of a page-turner in the making but falls just short. The character of Malthus is underdeveloped, instead maintaining the generic evil cliché stamp throughout the novel. Sadly, the failure to develop this central character breaks down each of the opportunities for Harris to develop dialogue with depth and nuance. It leaves readers wanting more but just not getting it.