What Cannot Be Said (Sebastian St. Cyr Mystery)

Written by C.S. Harris
Review by Erica Obey

In this nineteenth installment in Harris’s well-loved and well-respected series, Sebastian St. Cyr and his wife, Hero, are faced with the murder of a mother and daughter, who are found laid out like tomb effigies after a family picnic in Richmond Park. When a young chocolatier’s apprentice is found in a similarly ritualistic pose, St. Cyr and Hero must investigate whether London is being stalked by a serial killer who is imitating the murders of another mother and daughter fourteen years earlier. Their search will take them through the ugly underbelly of the Regency workhouses and the appalling treatment of apprenticed orphans, as well as to a baby farmer adept at quietly disposing of unwanted infants, under the guise of caring for them. At the same time, England is facing a new crisis in the form of the exiled Napoleon Bonaparte, for the government must decide whether to return him to near-certain execution in France, or allow their deadly enemy to live in England as he has requested.

As always, Harris blends an unflinching look at the bleak existence of the majority of London’s population with the glittering scenes in salons and assembly rooms that Regency readers love. Series fans will be pleased with further developments in the stories of several recurring characters, but the overarching series arcs never interfere with a satisfying mystery, supported by well-researched history. Harris’s trademark concern for the social wrongs of the Regency period is still the driving force of the novel, but mystery-first readers will not be dissatisfied with the well-constructed, if sometimes diffuse, central puzzle.