When Blood Lies (Sebastian St. Cyr Mystery)

Written by C.S. Harris
Review by Judith Starkston

When Blood Lies, book 17 in Harris’s Regency thriller series, takes place in Paris in 1815 when Bourbon king Louis XVIII has been restored to the throne of France, but not for long with Napoleon’s outsized presence lurking as a threat to some, and a savior to others. Set against this tense political backdrop, Harris’s murder mystery presents Sebastian with the most intensely personal crime of his career to solve when he finds his mother dying of a stab wound. The plot reveals many of the long-sought family secrets about his parentage and his missing mother, but also brings profound grief for him.

Given the importance of this novel in the overall series arc of Sebastian’s character, longtime readers of the series are going to find this gripping tale especially rewarding. However, Harris’s skill as a writer of fast-paced, glued-to-the-page, twisty plots makes this a spellbinder for anyone. The relationship between Sebastian and his wife, Hero, is endearing and fun to watch in action. Harris is especially good at presenting all the potential villains in a rich context of social ties and political alliances of Paris at that moment, so that unraveling who is the true villain is delightfully difficult but entirely fair to the attentive reader. Her deft descriptions of people and places bring this Paris to life. For example, here’s part of her description of the ex-galley slave “who somehow managed to get himself appointed head” of the period’s FBI equivalent: “His shoulders were broad and bearlike, his hands meaty, his head unusually big. Even the features of his face were exaggerated… he’d lived a hard life, having killed his fencing master as a youth…” Highly recommended.