I can't believe how long I waited before pouncing on this latest Sebastian St. Cyr mystery. I usually devour it the day it arrives in the mail. That being said, I still managed to be glued to it as soon as I started and finishing it quickly. Jane Austen, folks! I couldn't believe it. Sebastian and Jane Austen share a case!
This series all pose separate murder mysteries in each book, but there is an ongoing storyline following Sebastian's life both the mysteries of the past and the present with his capable and intelligent wife, his powerful and sometimes brutal father in law, and all his associates that help him solve murders. So what I'm saying is that it is definitely best to read them in order. Totally worth it! Sebastian, as a noble man detective from the Regency period is worth it.
Sebastian St. Cyr, Lord Devlin, is called out in the wee hours by his friend and magistrate of the Bow Street Runners to consult on a startling and grizzly murder. A prominent wealthy gentleman has been killed and his head removed near Bloody Bridge with a Charles I burial strap nearby.
Sebastian pursues inquiries into the dead man's life and known associates while his wife, Hero, continues her controversial research into the poor of London. Sebastian's detecting isn't popular with his family or Hero's anymore than her work for the poor is, but she supports him and he supports her because they understand each other.
Soon his work turns up disturbing connections that tie-in to his own past and to some powerful people including a government lord, a former colonial governor, and a banker. Sebastian goes from not having enough suspects to having a plethora of them and one of them thinks he is getting too close to the truth and turns the hunter into the prey.
As usual when I read this series, I appreciate all the work that goes into making them complex mysteries, but also stories with depth. Sebastian and the cast of characters surrounding him have depth. Sebastian has flaws and weaknesses to go along with his strengths and in the stories he forms attachments and has powerful enemies. His relationship with his extended family, his wife, his friends, and his acquaintances are all rolled into the story.
But not just the characters get that extra something, the author takes prestigious care over the backdrop and settings so that the overall historical period is painted with colorful detail, but also the particular subject of the mystery which was in this case the world of collectors, royal burials, the climate toward slavery, and conditions for the poor of that time.
Then there is the murder mystery which was devilishly tricky as they generally are for me. I couldn't determine who I thought was the killer or why. Jane Austen's brother, Henry Austen, was even a suspect and I loved that these real life figures were pulled in and had some good scene time.
Sebastian's cases are not just arm-chair cozies and get exciting and gritty. An enemy from his past keeps him on his toes and unleashes Sebastian's wrath when those he cares for come into the crosshairs of lethal danger. There is a real loss for Sebastian in this one and I confess to tearing up and reeling from the shock of it even after I closed the book.
I have to add that I have a fiendish glee whenever Sebastian, Hero, and her father, Lord Jarvis encounter one another. The sparks just fly and I love that there is an armed neutrality about their family dynamics.
All in all, it was superb and I am sad that I must wait yet again for the next installment. These are for historical mystery, historical fiction, and even historical romantic suspense lovers who want some authenticity, depth of character, grit and action to their story.