First Sentence: A howling wind flung icy snow crystals into Hero Devlin’s face, stinging her cold cheeks and stealing her breath.
London is experiencing one of its most severe winters. Returning to her carriage along with midwife Alexi Sauvage, Hero Devlin falls onto the body of a woman buried in the snow. This is no pauper frozen to death, but a well-dressed woman who had been killed and dumped. This is Jane Ambrose, music teacher to Princess Charlotte, the Regent’s daughter. Entangled in politics and lies, Hero and her husband, Sebastian seek to find Jane’s killer.
The weather can be a powerful element for creating a sense of place. In this case, it also serves as an effective backdrop for meeting our two main protagonists, Hero and Sebastian, and their two friends, Paul Gibson and Alexi. The four are very strong and effective characters, but not without flaws. This makes them also seem more real.
One issue, however, is that when one becomes involved with the British Royal family, particularly in past times, there are so many connections, lines, and political machinations, the author is required to spend considerable time, and repetition, helping the reader keep it all straight. In the process, it is easy to lose focus of the plot. Still, the plot is effective in which Harris lays a pathway of clues with each character laying a step to each clue along the way. Part of the fun of the story is that Harris has created a garden of historical figures.
Another area in which the plot, and indeed, the series, becomes mired, is in Devlin’s question of his birth, and the hatred between Devlin and Hero’s father. Harris does do a good job of conveying the enmity and difference in viewpoints between the latter of these two—“Justice.” Jarvis rolled the word with distaste off his tongue. “This maudlin obsession of yours with vague and essentially useless philosophical constructs is beyond tiresome. Justice comes from God.” They are also issues for which resolution in the near future would be desirable.
Much is made of the weather as the book is set during the winter of the Great Freeze. It is nice that the time can also provide a lovely image which lightens the mood of the story—“An older man and a little girl sailed past on the ice, the man skating, the grinning child simply holding on to the tails of his coat and gliding along in his wake.” Harris also ensures one understands that this is a period of tremendous poverty and suffering—“It’s just that I have the most lowering reflection that I’m doing this simply as a pitiful sop to my own conscience. In the grand scheme of things, what does it matter if I help one desperate mother and her children when thousands more are starving to death?”—and later—“She’s in Newgate. She was arrested before Christmas trying to steal a ham and is scheduled to hang on Tuesday.”
Harris also raises the issue of press gangs and the futility of war—“This blasted war. Sometimes I think it will never end. For how many years can the nations of Europe continue fighting each other? Some of the men dying today must be the grandsons of those who fell two decades ago.” She also reflects on the—“differences in attitude and posture that distinguished the men from the women, the boys from the girls.”
“Why Kill the Innocent” is a story of duplicity. The plot is way overcomplicated yet, when stripped of the overabundance of historical detail, the story is quite good.
WHY KILL THE INNOCENT (Hist May-Sebastian/Hero St. Cyr-England-1814) Good
Harris, C.S. – 13th in series
Berkeley – April 2018