In this mystery in the Sebastian St. Cyr series, the aristocratic investigator is drawn into a sordid world of greed, desperation, and the occult when the husband of his former lover is accused of murder.
Regency England, September 1812: After a long night spent dealing with the tragic death of a former military comrade, a heart-sick Sebastian learns of a new calamity: Russell Yates, the dashing, one-time privateer who married Kat Boleyn a year ago, has been found standing over the corpse of Benjamin Eisler, a wealthy gem dealer. Yates insists he is innocent, but he will surely hang unless Sebastian can unmask the real killer.
For the sake of Kat, the woman he once loved and lost, Sebastian plunges into a treacherous circle of intrigue. Although Eisler’s clients included the Prince Regent and the Emperor Napoleon, he was a despicable man with many enemies and a number of dangerous, well-kept secrets—including a passion for arcane texts and black magic. Central to the case is a magnificent blue diamond, believed to have once formed part of the French crown jewels, which disappeared on the night of Eisler’s death. As Sebastian traces the diamond’s ownership, he uncovers links that implicate an eccentric, powerful financier named Hope and stretch back into the darkest days of the French Revolution.
When the killer grows ever more desperate and vicious, Sebastian finds his new marriage to Hero tested by the shadows of his first love, especially when he begins to suspect that Kat is keeping secrets of her own. And as matters rise to a crisis, Sebastian must face a bitter truth—that he has been less than open with the fearless woman who is now his wife.
A murder case complicates Sebastian St. Cyr's recent marriage in Harris's excellent eighth Regency mystery (after 2012's When Maiden's Mourn): the accused, former privateer Russell Yates, is the husband of Kat Boleyn, St. Cyr's long-time love interest, for whom he still pines. Yates is charged with the fatal shooting of diamond merchant Daniel Eisler at the merchant's London house. Yates, who had an appointment with Eisler, claims he heard a pistol shot at the door before rushing inside and finding the merchant dead in the parlor, where Eisler's nephew discovered him crouching over the body. St. Cyr learns that the unscrupulous Eisler tried to sell a large blue diamond that had been one of the French Crown Jewels, but that disappeared in 1792. The combination of complex back story, intricate plotting, surprising developments, and poignant evocations of the lives of the underprivileged makes this one of the best entries in Harris's superior historical series.
Good read, a bit confusing keeping track of all the minor characters.
What Darkness Brings
Like all the St. Cyr mysteries, the greatest strengths in this book are the complex, poignantly developing relationships, intricately plotted and enhanced by fascinating, well-researched period detail. The avaricious manipulations of the wealthy are balanced by the daily courage of indigent children sweeping streets for pennies. The immoral machinations of the powerful contrast starkly with the quiet nobility of a young widow refusing charity. This plot involves the murderous intrigue at the highest (and lowest) levels of society, laced with both the sordid and the humane, that one expects of the series. However, What Darkness Brings most notably strains and nurtures the connections between those Devlin loves most deeply and those he fears. The plot and relationships (which in other hands might seem maudlin) are deftly tangled. Harris skillfully manages Devlin's distrust of his father and father-in-law, divided feelings for the two women in his life, and uncertainty regarding his vanished mother and possible brother. Throughout the series, he is driven by his aching need for truth as much for himself as for the unjustly accused. But, it is his deepening appreciation for his wife that is most engaging. While Hero has always been Devlin's equal in both intellect and courage, her character here is ever more nuanced, and she becomes wholly worthy of the reader's (and Devlin's) loyalty. I eagerly await the next book!
One note to the publishers: the online version sometime cuts off mid-sentence. I found it necessary to experiment with the font to ensure I wasn't missing out. Rather distracting.