Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Who Slays the Wicked by C.S. Harris

First Sentence:  Bloodred and splayed wide as if in panic, the dried handprint stood out clearly against the white, freshly painted inside panel of the town house's front door.
Stephanie, the niece of Sebastian St. Cyr, is married to Lord Ashworth, a sexually profligate, violent man, whom St. Cyr had suspected of kidnapping and killing children several years ago.  After the birth of their twin sons, Stephanie no longer lives with Ashworth.  Still, she becomes a natural suspect when a small bloody handprint is found in the door to Ashworth's house, and he is found naked, tied to the bedposts, and brutally murdered.
Harris is very good at capturing the reader's attention on page one. She then keeps the tension going through the introduction of various suspects, and additional bodies, and a character gone missing.    
It's always interesting to see how similar, and yet different, was forensics over 200 years ago.  Harris makes very good use of such information.  The story's setting and the inclusion of historical events adds a nice layer and intrigue to the plot.  It also educates one about the period.
There are nicely done snippets of humor—"Why exactly are we here?" "To watch.  And listen.  And leap to wild and probably faulty assumptions." Harris knows how to create atmosphere—"The entire area reeked of overflowing bog houses, rot, disease, and despair." She effectively destroys any illusions one may have about the tranquil, genteel life of the entitled and wealthy, especially as it pertains to a woman.  As she describes the rise and fall of prosperity in various neighborhoods, one does wish for a detailed map.
The question as to why one murders has long been given the answer of five human emotions.  To that, Harris adds a sixth, rather frightening motive.  She also reflects on the hypocrisy of those who call themselves Christians and reveals things about which one might not know except for reading historicals. While the story contains a plethora of bodies and suspects, many are ones who seem incidental and don't add significantly to the story, the perpetrator is a well-done surprise.
"Who Slays the Wicked" does hold one's interest and effectively demonstrates that it truly is the poor who pay the price while the elite are never brought to justice.     

WHO SLAYS THE WICKED (HistMys-Sebastian St. Cyr-1814- London) - Good
      Harris, C.S. – 14th in series
      Berkeley, April 2019

1 comment:

  1. I do like a well-done historical mystery. And it sounds as though the mystery part - the main plot - is done well. I know what you mean, too, about learning how things like forensics were done a long time ago - to me, that sort of thing is fascinating. Glad you endjoyed this.