In Regency England, a viscount pursues the sadistic killer of London’s most vulnerable denizens.
Sebastian St. Cyr, Viscount Devlin, and his former comrade in arms, surgeon Paul Gibson, have seen more than their share of violent death in wartime. But neither one can look calmly at the body of Benji Thatcher, a street urchin who was cut, whipped, raped repeatedly, and strangled. The death of one more homeless pickpocket is unlikely to cause a stir among most of fashionable London, but Gibson and Sebastian specialize in solving crimes that others can’t or won’t. Sebastian’s wife, Hero, is a social reformer who’s writing a series of articles about the poor of London, and while she interviews some of the street children who knew Benji, Sebastian uses the testimony of an old soldier who saw and interrupted someone digging Benji’s grave as a starting point for finding out what happened not just to Benji, but to a number of other homeless children who’ve disappeared. The owner of a secondhand store helps direct Sebastian to a brothel catering to clients who like their prostitutes young, and contraband copies of a book by the Marquis de Sade bring Sebastian closer to identifying the person responsible for the pitiful collections of children’s bones buried near the shallow grave meant for Benji. Unfortunately, Sebastian’s suspects—an actor, a French count, a dissolute marquis’ heir about to marry into Sebastian’s family, and an even more highly connected person who’s also a relative of Hero—all have alibis. But Sebastian’s power-hungry father-in-law presents the biggest obstacle to his sleuthing in a tale that, despite top boots and tall hats, velvet spencers and gowns à la grecque, and even a cat named Mr. Darcy, is a far cry from the world of Jane Austen.
Harris (When Falcons Fall, 2016, etc.) is as determined as her lead couple to explore London’s underbelly. Hold onto your carriage strap: the tangle of familial, criminal, and political conflict makes for bleak reading.