Friday, September 19, 2008

Where Serpents Sleep-C.S. Harris

Where Serpents Sleep
C.S. Harris
Obsidian, Nov 2008, $23.95
ISBN: 0451225120

In 1812 the Magdalene House near Covent Gardens is run by the friends as a refuge for prostitutes who want to get out of that life. Hero Jarvis, daughter of an aristocrat who is the power behind the throne, interviews the residents so she can create a realistic reform bill to help these unfortunates. While there she meets Rose Jones, a highborn frightened teen who fears certain men are coming to kill her. They do and she dies in Hero’s arms; the other women are also killed leaving Hero the survivor. She vows to learn why.

Hero seeks the help of Viscount Devlin, Sebastian St. Cyr, who still grieves the loss of his beloved Kat Boleyn and troubles with his father. Although hesitant, he is interested so he pushes aside the alcohol to forget what can never be. He intends to investigate by looking into Rose’s background. Before Magdalene House she worked at a high price brothel; when she ran away she took Hannah Green with her. As the sleuths come closer to the truth, the death count amongst prostitutes and others involved in the case mounts; someone is killing to hide his identity.

C.S. Harris is a brilliant historical storyteller who brings to life the darker side of Regency London inside an intriguing mystery. Sebastian in his fourth appearance (see WHY MERMAIDS SING, WHERE GODS DIE and WHAT ANGELS FEAR) is even more troubled than usual even as his sense of justice propels him to investigate regardless of the class of victims. With a great plausible late twist to top off this strong early nineteenth century whodunit, Ms. Harris is at her bleakest best as St. Cyr seems one step behind a killer apparently cleansing his prostate trail.

Harriet Klausner

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