Book Review: A Sickle In The Back

Who Speaks For the Damned is a recent entry into the mystery series featuring Sebastian St, Cyr, Viscount Devlin by C.S. Harris. It is June 1814, and the Viscount Devlin has now been married for a while. His son is getting a little bigger. Sebastian’s domestic situation has yet to dampen his drive to help out if an interesting murder goes down in London.

Nicholas Hayes was an offspring of the deceased Earl of Seaworth, however that did not keep him from being convicted of murder and sent off to Botany Bay. He was thought to have died as well, but he actually escaped his exile and returned to England with a child. He may have returned for revenge against four men instrumental in framing him for murder or he may have evidence of his innocence. Either way, he does end up getting murdered with a sickle stuck in his back. The mysterious child he had been seen with has disappeared into the city. Sebastian has to resurrect the facts of a case eighteen years old and is once again a thorn in the sides of several fellow members of the aristocracy. He has some help from his wife and surgeon Paul Gibson. Once again, he is warned off by his ruthless, cunning father-in-law. It’s a new case but with many familiar obstacles. Sebastian remains as determined and unruffled as ever. as he starts piecing together the last several years of Hayes’ life.

C.S. Harris used to put Sebastian through some earth-shattering personal upheavals, however it has been a while since she has knocked her protagonist for a serious loop. In some ways, I don’t mind, but the stories are getting a little predictable. There is still plenty to enjoy for the dedicated mystery reader. Harris does blend her tale nicely into the historical events of the time. The war with Napoleon has come to an end, and the British government returns to the usual business of empty platitudes and crushing taxation.

Harris proves to be a competent writer, yet there is not much that stands out other than Sebastian’s elegant machismo. Harris seems to be getting a little formulaic. The sparring between Sebastian and his wife’s father is fun, but not much has happened lately for the two to really go at each other. I am not sure what sort of upheaval I would want for the pugnacious viscount, but it does appear that Sebastian is due for one.

The book overall is a fine addition to the series, but it’s another situation where there is not much when it comes to new land being uncovered.

Speaking of probably too familiar territory, time to take some short trips in the TARDIS. Several years ago, Gary Russell compiled a collection of Doctor Who short stories for a volume entitles Short Trips : Repercussions.

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