The grisly murder of a West Indies slave owner and the reappearance of a dangerous enemy from Sebastian St. Cyr’s past combine to put C. S. Harris’s “troubled but compelling antihero” (Booklist) to the ultimate test in this taut, thrilling mystery.
London, 1813. The vicious decapitation of Stanley Preston, a wealthy, socially ambitious plantation owner, at Bloody Bridge draws Sebastian St. Cyr, Viscount Devlin, into a macabre and increasingly perilous investigation. The discovery near the body of an aged lead coffin strap bearing the inscription King Charles, 1648 suggests a link between this killing and the beheading of the deposed seventeenth-century Stuart monarch. Equally troubling, the victim’s kinship to the current Home Secretary draws the notice of Sebastian’s powerful father-in-law, Lord Jarvis, who will exploit any means to pursue his own clandestine ends.
Working in concert with his fiercely independent wife, Hero, Sebastian finds his inquiries taking him from the wretched back alleys of Fish Street Hill to the glittering ballrooms of Mayfair as he amasses a list of suspects who range from an eccentric Chelsea curiosity collector to the brother of an unassuming but brilliantly observant spinster named Jane Austen.
But as one brutal murder follows another, it is the connection between the victims and ruthless former army officer Sinclair, Lord Oliphant, that dramatically raises the stakes. Once, Oliphant nearly destroyed Sebastian in a horrific wartime act of carnage and betrayal. Now the vindictive former colonel might well pose a threat not only to Sebastian but to everything—and everyone—Sebastian holds most dear.
In Harris's satisfying 10th whodunit set in Regency England (after 2014's Why Kings Confess), Bow Street magistrate Sir Henry Lovejoy asks aristocratic sleuth Sebastian St. Cyr to help solve the grisly murder of Stanley Preston, cousin to the Home Secretary. After severing Preston's head, the killer perched it on an old London bridge known as Bloody Bridge. Sebastian discovers a metal strap near the bridge that's inscribed "King Charles, 1648," a clue that may connect with Preston's macabre collection of the heads of historical figures. The presence in London of Stanley Oliphant, Sebastian's longtime nemesis, whom he blames for the slaughter of innocents in Portugal, complicates the inquiry. The detective's capable wife, Hero, assists him in unraveling the twisted truth as more bloodshed ensues. The solution, one of Harris's trickiest, will appeal both to fair-play fans and those interested in a vivid evocation of the period.