Where the Dead Lie (2017) by C. S. Harris
Sebastian St. Cyr, Lord Devlin, is drawn into one of his darkest investigations yet. It begins with the interruption of a clandestine burial at an abandoned Clerkenwell shot factory. The body is that of Benji Thatcher, a fifteen-year-old boy from the streets. He was brutalized in terrible ways before he was killed. A constable with a conscience refuses to accept the quick inquest's decision of accidental death. He claims the body for a proper burial, but takes Benji to Paul Gibson for a proper autopsy. As soon as he sees the body, Paul sends a message to Devlin--knowing that if there is to be any justice for the young boy, then Devlin is the only one who will care enough to do something.
With very little to go on, Devlin goes to the Clerkenwell area and begins to ask questions. He soon discovers that street children have been going missing for quite some time--not that anyone has really taken much notice. After all, what's a few less unwanted street urchins? Even more disturbing is the revelation that Benji's younger sister went missing at about the same time and no one knows where she is. Fearing the worst, Devlin races against time--hardly daring to believe that a swift investigation might save the little girl's life.
Each piece of the puzzle he picks up, provides stronger evidence that there is a very depraved mind at work. Someone who values the writings of the Marquis de Sade and who believes that the strongest pleasure is found in pain. He also finds evidence that it's someone from the ruling class who is using the most vulnerable members of society as their playthings--and tossing them away like so much garbage when they've been used up. Devlin will once again risk his position and his life to put a stop to such merciless killing.
This is another excellent historical mystery by C. S. Harris. I can't fault the plot nor the characters nor the historical research. Any qualms are purely personal--I have an extraordinarily difficult time reading about the murder and horrific treatment of children. And while the descriptions aren't overly graphic, they are enough to make it very hard to read. If the writing and characterizations weren't so good, I might not have been able to finish it. On a positive note--after not being able to identify the killer in the previous book, I did redeem myself and spotted half of the solution this time. And I was pleased to see Devlin and his father, the Earl of Hendon, begin to patch up their differences at the end. I do wonder whether anything will come of certain suspicions I have about the Jarvis household, however. ★★★★
First lines: The boy hated this part. Hated the eerie way the pale waxen faces of the dead seemed to glow in the faintest moonlight.
Last line: "Well. That should make for some interesting family gatherings," said Ashworth, a faint provocative smile on his handsome face as he moved to take his place beside his bride.
Deaths = 12 (four strangled; seven stabbed; one fell from height)