The fourteenth entry in the Sebastian St. Cyr, Lord Devlin series. In the twelfth book, Devlin had discovered that two members of the ton were behind the torture and deaths of street children. While he was able to bring the crimes home to one of the culprits (and exact a measure of justice on behalf of the victims), he was unable to prove the involvement of Lord Ashworth. The sadistic young man went on to marry Devlin's niece Stephanie and make her life miserable. Throughout his thirty-some years, he had left a trail destroyed lives.
But now someone has put a stop to all that. Lord Ashbury is found brutally murdered among the bloody silken sheets of his bed. The young lord openly consorted with others after his marriage and was known to like his relations rough and at first it looks like his latest conquest may have panicked and killed him as a result of their treatment at his hands. But there are too many questions that this solution doesn't answer. Why was Ashbury's valet killed also--and left naked in a nearby alley? Where has the housemaid disappeared to? What is the connection to the Russian duchess who has recently come to London? And finally--why has the man's closest friend been killed as well? And then there are the whispers that Lady Ashworth--Devlin's niece--was carrying on an affair of her own...perhaps she or her lover are responsible?
Devlin is desperate to find answers--not because he cares much that Ashbury is dead, but because he doesn't want the innocent to suffer. Answers that he hopes will prove that his niece is innocent. But evidence keeps piling up that points towards a woman--from a small bloody handprint to a silk stocking left behind in Ashworth's bedroom to a bundle of blood-stained women's clothing picked out of the river by river wherryman. But are these clues telling the whole story?
Another top-notch historical mystery from C. S. Harris. There are plenty of red herrings to distract and I honestly did not see the ending coming. So well done in the mystifying the reader department! I enjoy the period details and the background history that Harris provides--without cluttering the narrative with info dumps. Each entry in the series teaches me something about the Regency era that I didn't know--or didn't know very much about. The backdrop for this novel is the end of the war with Napoleon and the beginnings of the machinations on the part of England and Russian to determine the fate of Europe after the war. Devlin and all of the main characters continue to interest and delight and I'm still waiting for the other shoe to drop in the Jarvis household. ★★★★ and 1/2.
First line: Bloodred and splayed wide as if in panic, the dried handprint stood out clearly against the white, freshly painted inside panel of the town house's front door.
Yet even as he said it, Sebastian knew it was useless. Giovanni had already picked up his burden of guilt, and he would carry it with him to the grave, if not beyond. (p. 186)
Secrets that shield the wicked should be exposed. But why not hide an ugly truth that would only harm an innocent? (Sebastian St. Cyr; p. 207)
Last line: "We can't."
Deaths = 11 (five stabbed; one drowned; one hit on head; three shot; one strangled)