Who Speaks for the Damned
Sebastian St. Cyr, Book #15
By C.S. Harris
Author Website: csharris(.)net
Brought to you by OBS Reviewer Daniele
It’s June 1814, and the royal families of Austria, Russia, and the German states have gathered in London at the Prince Regent’s invitation to celebrate the defeat of Napoléon and the restoration of monarchical control throughout Europe. But the festive atmosphere is marred one warm summer evening by the brutal murder of a disgraced British nobleman long thought dead.
Eighteen years before, Nicholas Hayes, the third son of the late Earl of Seaford, was accused of killing a beautiful young French émigré and transported to Botany Bay for life. Even before his conviction, Hayes had been disowned by his father. Few in London were surprised when they heard the ne’er-do-well had died in New South Wales in 1799. But those reports were obviously wrong. Recently Hayes returned to London with a mysterious young boy in tow–a child who vanishes shortly after Nicholas’s body is discovered.
Sebastian St. Cyr, Viscount Devlin, is drawn into the investigation by his valet, Jules Calhoun. With Calhoun’s help, Sebastian begins to piece together the shattered life of the late Earl’s ill-fated youngest son. Why did Nicholas risk his life and freedom by returning to England? And why did he bring the now-missing young boy with him? Several nervous Londoners had reason to fear that Nicholas Hayes had returned to kill them. One of them might have decided to kill him first. (Goodreads)
Author C.S. Harris’s writing and storytelling abilities never cease to amaze me. I think she is one of the greatest historical authors writing today. With this fifteenth installment Who Speaks for the Damned, the long running Sebastian St. Cyr mystery series maintains its spot among my favorites.
Nicholas Hayes, convicted of murder some twenty years ago and thought dead, returns to London with a Chinese child in tow. However, the risk he takes coming home proves fatal when he is murdered. Before his death, he had reached out to Sebastian’s valet Jules Calhoun claiming he might need his help so, knowing no one or the city, the child turns to Calhoun, and Calhoun seeks Sebastian’s help in solving the case.
As I mentioned above, I truly adore this series and its characters. Who Speaks for the Damned is poignant and hits home for Sebastian since Nicholas’s life and experience could have easily been Sebastian’s own experience had he not been able to clear his own name when he was accused of murder (book one – What Angels Fear). Justice runs through Sebastian’s veins, and he is noble and honorable. I love that he bucks the system time and time again in his quest for the truth. His wife Hero, who is intelligent and righteous in her own right, is featured quite a bit in this tale, and she and Sebastian make the perfect pair. Readers learn quite a bit about Calhoun’s past, and he, too, plays an integral role in solving the mystery. The child Ji is heartbreaking and fascinating.
As always, there are plenty of historical facts, politics, and intrigue woven into the story, and though world leaders have gathered in London to celebrate Napoleon’s defeat, there is no single historical event that facilitates the story. Longtime readers might be a little disappointed, as I am, that there is not much progression with the series long arc regarding Sebastian’s family. Nonetheless, the mystery is engaging and a tough puzzle to figure out, the atmosphere and period details authentic, the dialogue smart, and the writing superb.
Who Speaks for the Damned is one of my favorite reads of the year. Highly recommended.