Sebastian St. Cyr thought a notorious killer had been brought to justice until a shocking series of gruesome new murders stuns the city in this thrilling historical mystery from the USA Today bestselling author of Who Speaks for the Damned.
It's October 1814. The war with France is finally over and Europe's diplomats are convening in Vienna for a conference that will put their world back together. With peace finally at hand, London suddenly finds itself in the grip of a series of heinous murders eerily similar to the Ratcliffe Highway murders of three years before.
In 1811, two entire families were viciously murdered in their homes. A suspect--a young seaman named John Williams--was arrested. But before he could be brought to trial, Williams hanged himself in his cell. The murders ceased, and London slowly began to breathe easier. But when the lead investigator, Sir Edwin Pym, is killed in the same brutal way three years later and others possibly connected to the original case meet violent ends, the city is paralyzed with terror once more.
Was the wrong man arrested for the murders? Bow Street magistrate Sir Henry Lovejoy turns to his friend Sebastian St. Cyr, Viscount Devlin, for assistance. Pym's colleagues are convinced his manner of death is a coincidence, but Sebastian has his doubts. The more he looks into the three-year-old murders, the more certain he becomes that the hapless John Williams was not the real killer. Which begs the question--who was and why are they dead set on killing again?
Harris's excellent 16th Regency-era whodunit (after 2020's Who Speaks for the Damned) pits her aristocratic sleuth, Sebastian St. Cyr, against a killer possibly connected to a notorious real-life series of murders. In 1814, St. Cyr is consulted by magistrate Sir Henry Lovejoy after Lovejoy's colleague, Sir Edwin Pym, is found dead in a London alley, his throat slit and his head bashed in. The m.o. matches the recent death of a seaman. The slaughter of a high-ranking official and nobleman is unsettling enough, but the two killings also resemble the horrific Ratcliffe Highway murders of 1811, which claimed seven lives in two households and terrified the city. While sailor John Williams was charged with those homicides, he apparently hanged himself while awaiting trial, and doubts linger as to whether he was guilty. That history leads St. Cyr to reinvestigate the proof against Williams, even as his father-in-law, Lord Jarvis, the real power behind the throne, insists that the inquiry be circumscribed to avoid agitating an already restive population. Harris makes good use of the available evidence concerning the historical crimes, crafting a clever and suspenseful plot. Fans of David Morrell's Murder as a Fine Art will be pleased.