Harrisís latest installment of Sebastian St. Cyrís adventures in Regency London begins with a shocking murder. The victim is Sir Francis Prescott, Bishop of London and next in line to replace an aging Archbishop of Canterbury.
At the request of his aunt and the archbishop, St. Cyr agrees to investigate the death, which occurs at the site of an ancient burial crypt, long-sealed from prying eyes but recently opened due to repairs. Even more outrageous is the discovery of another body beneath the first, this one dead for over thirty years. Sir Nigel Prescott, an intemperate and often violent man, was believed to have died years ago after his surprising disappearance.
This is the perfect St. Cyr scenario and one which exemplifies the series, colorful crimes solved by a uniquely qualified investigator who knows all the right people and isnít afraid to rustle the feathers of the powerful. Harris is a master of the genre, and this title is no exception as St. Cyr learns of an association with the infamous Hellfire Club.
Then there is the matter of a packet of letters penned by an unidentified author during the American Revolution and dark family secrets that bring Sebastian directly back to his own family lineage. Toss in a couple of unsavory characters who would rather threaten than answer questions, an ambush at St. Cyrís home that injures one of his servants and a violent confrontation that ends in bloodshed, and Sebastian is in his element, torn and broken but still fighting.
In a mix of the ancient - with images of moldering coffins stacked in an endless horizon - and the two family members buried thirty years apart, vested interests concerned with keeping certain affairs private and Sebastianís personal involvement, you have a mystery of Regency London filled with local history, the deeds of ambitious men with private agendas, and the unerring penchant of some men for violence as the only solution.
The result is another rollicking murder mystery, Sebastian St. Cyr coming to terms with manís inhumanity to man and his own personal crisis, including a situation that must be rectified to protect the innocent. Between the mysterious happenings, the bizarre deaths, the menace that follows him from one scene to another and a confusing romance with an unwilling young woman, St. Cyr has more than his share of problems in this mystery. But Harrisís signature character is nothing if not heroic, a popular protagonist who entertains readers in novel after novel.