Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Who Buries the Dead by C.S. Harris

First Sentence:  They called it Bloody Bridge.

It’s called Bloody Bridge because of its past.  However, that past has come forward into the present for Sebastian St. Cyr, when a wealthy, prominent plantation owner is found there decapitated.  Near the body is an old coffin strap bearing the name of Charles Stuart, the 17th century king who was beheaded. St. Cyr’s father in law has promised the Prince Regent that he may be the first official witness to the newly uncovered tomb, but there's one problem; someone broken into the Charles coffin and stole his head.

Harris really knows how to write a compelling first chapter.  This one is particularly good.  Better, still, she starts off strong and just keeps going.

There are very good introductions to the various characters and excellent descriptions which create a strong sense of time and place.  She has a wonderful diversity of characters, from those in positions of power and wealth, all the way to the poor and to those who work with the dead.  In each case, Harris gives us a good sense of who they are and who they each relate to the story and to one another. 
Harris has a great voice.  She creates wonderful analogies, “It often seemed to Sebastian that trying to solve a murder was sometimes akin to approaching a figure in the mist.”  Her dialogue, occasionally imbued with a touch of humor,  “Someone cut off his head.”  “Good heavens. How terribly gauche.”  “Frightfully so….” is a pleasure to read.

The story contains fascinating historical references such as those related to England’s slave trade and their attitude toward it.  Such elements add veracity to the story.  Through Hero, Sebastian’s wife, we gain a picture of the period and the live of those just struggling to get by and do for themselves.   “But she knew now that she had never appreciated just how thin the line between survival and starvation was for a vast segment of London’s population.”  The information on the costermongers and the mentality of collectors, as well as that about the deaths of past kings, is informative and educational, yet seamlessly woven into the fabric of the story.

The characters of Sebastian and Hero are rather romanticized and larger-than-life, but the other characters, including Jane Austin and her brother used in a very appropriate manner, balance them out nicely and you’re left truly with a mystery, rather than a romance. 

Who Buries the Dead” is a very good read; with suspense, history, and a touch of romance.  It is a wonderful book in a wonderful series.

WHO BURIES THE DEAD
(Hist. Mys-Sebastian St. Cyr-London, 1813) – VG
Harris, C.S. – 10th in series
NAL Hardcover - March, 2015

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