cover image What the Devil Knows: A Sebastian St. Cyr Mystery

What the Devil Knows: A Sebastian St. Cyr Mystery

C.S. Harris. Berkley, $26 (336p) ISBN 978-0-593-10266-4

Harris’s excellent 16th Regency-era whodunit (after 2020’s Who Speaks for the Damned) pits her aristocratic sleuth, Sebastian St. Cyr, against a killer possibly connected to a notorious real-life series of murders. In 1814, St. Cyr is consulted by magistrate Sir Henry Lovejoy after Lovejoy’s colleague, Sir Edwin Pym, is found dead in a London alley, his throat slit and his head bashed in. The m.o. matches the recent death of a seaman. The slaughter of a high-ranking official and nobleman is unsettling enough, but the two killings also resemble the horrific Ratcliffe Highway murders of 1811, which claimed seven lives in two households and terrified the city. While sailor John Williams was charged with those homicides, he apparently hanged himself while awaiting trial, and doubts linger as to whether he was guilty. That history leads St. Cyr to reinvestigate the proof against Williams, even as his father-in-law, Lord Jarvis, the real power behind the throne, insists that the inquiry be circumscribed to avoid agitating an already restive population. Harris makes good use of the available evidence concerning the historical crimes, crafting a clever and suspenseful plot. Fans of David Morrell’s Murder as a Fine Art will be pleased. Agent: Helen Breitwieser, Cornerstone Literary. (Apr.)