Who Speaks for the Damned (Sebastian St. Cyr Mystery)
This is the latest in C.S. Harris’s Regency mystery series featuring aristocratic detective Sebastian St. Cyr, Lord Devlin, and his wife, Hero. In 1814, as the Allied Sovereigns gather in London to celebrate the fall of Napoleon, the dead body of Nicholas Hayes, the younger son of an earl, is found in a public garden. Eighteen years before, Hayes had been transported to Botany Bay for the murder of a French countess, but he has escaped by way of China and come back to England with a mysterious half-Chinese boy who is possibly his illegitimate son, and who disappears after Hayes’s murder. Sebastian’s valet, Calhoun, knew Hayes before the murder and believes he was not the violent man he has been made out to be. As Sebastian investigates Hayes’s death, he comes to agree with his valet. Was Hayes innocent, after all? Why did he come back to England, when he would have faced a certain death sentence? Sebastian discovers there are four men who had reason to kill Hayes. Did Hayes return in order to kill one, or all, of them? Hero and Calhoun look for the missing boy, who might hold the key to the murder.
Harris brings Regency London to life, from the aristocratic ballrooms and the pageantry in honor of the Allied Sovereigns, to the sordid back streets. Sebastian is a wonderful protagonist, daring and courageous, but haunted by his experiences in the Napoleonic Wars. Hero is an equal partner to her husband in his investigations, and they share a desire to improve the conditions of the poor. The plot takes many twists and turns as Sebastian pieces together Hayes’s life, and Harris casts suspicion first on one of his enemies, then on another, so you don’t guess, until the end, who is guilty. Highly recommended.