Saturday, April 16, 2011
WHY MERMAIDS SING by C. S. Harris
Dang, I'm really getting to love C. S. Harris. Her Sebastian St. Cyr mysteries always deliver; never too nasty or noir-ish, but at the same time, never too sugarcoated and cutesy in their historical settings.
This time, there's a serial killer out there, targeting the sons of wealthy and prominent men, killing them and maiming them in horrifying ways. They're left in public places with strange objects shoved in their mouths, like a page from a ship's journal, or the hoof of a goat. Someone has an agenda and is sending a message...but who? and why?
Even though Sebastian is ordered off the case, at one point by the father of one of the victims, he perseveres in finding out the culprit's motive and identity. And at times it's pretty gruesome going.
Sebastian continues to be an involving character, and his determination to get to the bottom of the affair is believable. He meets a wall of silence from the families of the deceased, and realizes a horrible secret connects them all, something so dreadful they'd rather remain silent than prevent another death. In a subplot, St. Cyr's mistress, Kat Boleyn, is torn between her love for him (and he truly plans to marry her) and threats that she needs to reveal a French spymaster in order to save her life. And sadly, their affair is ended, as an act of necessity.
It's a good, brisk read, and also meditates on two big societal taboos, cannibalism and incest, and when they're intentional, inadvertent, or committed in desperation. It's all believable and a darned good read, although there's a few times when you may want to mentally turn away for a little bit. The Regency setting is still very well-realized, and I was amused to realize that, after reading one of Stephanie Barron's Jane Austen mysteries, that these were running almost side-by-side in time line but with different styles and outlooks.
Why Mermaids Sing is a crackling good read, and C.S. Harris continues to be a big favorite of mine. Luckily, I found the next two books in the series at a library book sale, so I can read them at my leisure.