Brighton, England, 1811. The beautiful wife of an aging Marquis is found dead in the arms of the Prince Regent. Draped around her neck lies an ancient necklace with mythic origins-and mysterious ties to Sebastian St. Cyr, Viscount Devlin. Haunted by his past, Sebastian investigates both the Marchioness’s death and his own possible connection to it-and discovers a complex pattern of lies and subterfuge. With the aid of his lover, Kat Boleyn, and a former street urchin now under his protection, Sebastian edges closer to the killer. And when one murder follows another, he confronts a conspiracy that threatens his own identity…and imperils the monarchy itself.
Rating: Narration – B+; Content – B
There’s another intriguing mystery for Sebastian St. Cyr, Viscount Devlin, in this second book of the series. When a beautiful young marchioness is found dead in the arms of the Prince Regent, Sebastian is asked by Lord Jarvis, the Regent’s cousin, to investigate. Sebastian is suspicious; Jarvis is a manipulative, powerful man with connections and influence at the highest levels of government and society, and is no friend to Sebastian’s father, Lord Hendon or Sebastian himself.
The viscount is reluctant to become involved at first, but when he sees that the woman is wearing a necklace formerly owned by his mother – who died when he was eleven – he is driven to discover the truth, both about the murder and the necklace. It’s an investigation that will lead him to uncover some painful secrets about his past as well as into danger when he uncovers a plot against the Monarchy.
This is a solid second outing for the viscount-turned-detective that reunites him with characters from the previous book – the street urchin, Tom (now Sebastian’s Tiger), former army surgeon Paul Gibson, actress Kat Boleyn and magistrate Henry Lovejoy. The mystery is well-constructed, and the secondary characters are well-drawn, especially the elderly marquess who was clearly devoted to his young wife. There’s also a nice helping of political intrigue; the revolution in France took place within living memory, there’s war on the Peninsula and the English monarchy is deeply unpopular; and there are those willing to take action in order to effect drastic change.
There’s also trouble ahead for Sebastian in his personal life. We learned in the previous book that the woman he loves was pursuing her own agenda, and it seems as though the secrets she is keeping are soon to be exposed. I can’t say I’m warming to Kat as a character, although she does actually help Sebastian with his investigation this time, rather than withholding information from him, so I suppose that’s a step in the right direction. But I can’t buy into their relationship and don’t feel any sense of connection between them; each says they’re very much in love, but it’s a case of telling rather than showing. Other than the fact that she’s beautiful, he’s handsome and they had a relationship six years ago which was thwarted by Sebastian’s father, I don’t know why they are together. I also found Sebastian’s persistence in wanting to marry her to be rather short-sighted on his part. Neither of them cares much for society’s opinion, it’s true, but he gives no thought to any children they might have, who would be social pariahs through no fault of their own. Here, Kat is the more clear-sighted of the two of them, even though she is tempted to give in from time to time. The other really annoying thing in this book was the number of times Sebastian’s “feral” /“extraordinary yellow”/“amber” eyes were mentioned; I stopped counting after the first ten, but surely this should have been picked up in editing.
Even so, I enjoyed the story and I like the way Ms. Harris is gradually unfolding Sebastian’s family history. I imagine this continues throughout the books, which probably makes it difficult to read or listen to them out of order, or as standalones.
Davina Porter’s narration is excellent once again, with age/station appropriate vocalisations for each character and clear delineation between them. I know that this series was recorded out of order; I believe books 7,8 and 9 were recorded first and that the first six followed later (along with recordings of books 10 and 11) – so I’ll be interested to note, when I get to book 7, whether there are any differences in her character portrayals. My favourite of all her interpretations is undoubtedly that of young Tom – he always makes me smile.
I’ll definitely be picking up the next book, Why Mermaids Sing, in the near future.