First Sentence: The boy hated this part.
Poor street children die all the time in London. Dr. Paul Gibson calls for his friend, Sebastian St. Cyr, Viscount Devlin, to view the body of Benji Thatcher, a young boy who was tortured and murdered, and whose young sister is missing. St. Cyr's outrage for this crime leads him to learn how many children are missing, the writings of the Marquis de Sade, and the realization of wealthy men who torture children for pleasure.
There is nothing better than a compelling opening chapter, except when that chapter leads to another, and another, and a complete story all equally good.
While the plot captures one, it is the characters to whom we are most attracted. With few words and simple descriptions, Harris brings her characters to life. Harris takes us from the lives of the most wealthy, to the most poor, with Dr. Gibson being the perfect middle note. One of the things that makes St. Cyr such a strong character, is his sense of morality—“Someone’s been killing poor children…” “…Do you know who is responsible?” We all are, Sebastian wanted to say. You. Me. This city. This nation. Everyone who ever saw a cold, hungry child alone upon the streets and simply looked away.”
Harris employs the same deft hand in establishing the sense of time and place, as well as transmitting the emotions of each character. It is painful to read the descriptions of the lives of the poor, especially the women. She doesn’t shy away from acknowledging man’s capacity for violence--“Any man who has ever gone to war understands only too well the worst of what his fellow men are capable. … He reached the conclusion that this capacity for barbarity actually forms a fundamental and inescapable part of whatever it means to be human, however much we might want to deny it.” Yet Harris knows how to tug our heartstrings as well.
A really good author educates as well as entertains. Among the things we learn are about making shot for rifles of the time, and 14th/15th-century building construction. Additionally, she also provides an accurate assessment of humanity—“With humanity’s capacity for great good comes the capacity for unfathomable evil.”
“Where the Dead Lie” is a very good book with plenty of action and suspense. More importantly, it deals with a very painful theme which still holds true today. Do be sure to read the notes at the end.
WHERE THE DEAD LIE (Hist Mys-Sebastian St. Cyr-London-1813/Regency) – VG+
Harris, C.S. – 12th in series
Berkeley – April 2017