Why Kill the Innocent (2018) C. S. Harris
Lady Hero Devlin stumbles (quite literally) over the body of a beautiful young musician while on a socially conscious mission in the area of Clerkenwell. But what was Jane Ambrose, musical teacher to Princess Charlotte, doing in that part of town? The palace decides to hush things up--calling what is clearly manslaughter at best and quite likely murder an "unfortunate accident." Sebastian St Cyr, Lord Devlin takes up the case--for he has never paid attention to the "official" way of handling delicate affairs. He and Hero are determined to seek justice for Miss Ambrose.
The more they learn, the more intricate the plot surrounding the musician becomes. There are ties to the throne through Princess Charlotte, there are stolen letters which may put a spoke in Lord Jarvis's plans for England and Europe, and there is a plot of gold smuggling which Jane may have stumbled across. But there are also more homely matter--Jane's husband keeps a mistress and she herself was in love with another. Had she threatened to leave her husband--not only making for a scandal but also cutting off his livelihood? For Edward Ambrose's operas were not his own--his wife, barred from publishing such musical endeavors under her own name had written the works and he had taken the credit. Devlin and Hero will have to carefully investigate the international and domestic leads--dodging dangers on all sides before untangling the threads to find the one tied to the killer.
Harris delivers another excellent historical mystery. And this time I'm going to give her the coveted ★★★★★ rating. I've been waiting for one that knocks it out of the park and I think she's done it. The setting is superb--the last Frost Fair in England. This is the last time the Thames was completely frozen with games on the ice and all sorts of merchandise sold. She portrays the excitement and atmosphere surrounding the events perfectly. The mystery is well-plotted with an unexpected denouement and she kept me guessing till the end. And I loved that Hero Devlin got to have more involvement in the investigation and a bit of the action herself--taking out one of the bad guys with her little muff pistol.
“Is he dead?"
Alexi knelt in the snow beside the still body. "Not yet. But he will be soon."
Hero sucked in a deep breath tainted with the stench of fresh blood and burning fur. "Good."
Alexi looked up at her. "Your muff is on fire."
"Drat," said Hero, dropping the flaming fur into the melting snow. "I just purchased it.”
She is truly a good match for our hero, Lord Devlin. Strong. Strong-minded. Well able to take care of herself. I said it before and I'll say it again: if Harris decides to kill Hero off in a later installment (a la Elizabeth George and her Inspector Lynley series), I won't forgive her.
First line: A howling wind flung icy snow crystals into Hero Devlin's face, stinging her cold cheeks and stealing her breath.
The truth is frequently more dangerous than a lie (Valentino Vescovi; p. 59)
[on telling the truth] I'm not convinced either of them is. Although if I had to put money on one or the other, I'd pick the Italian harpist over the decorative Dutch courtier any day. (Hero Devlin; p. 63)
We like to believe the world arcs towards justice--I suppose because it reassures us and makes us think there's some sort of order to our existence, but what if we're wrong? What if it's all meaningless chaos and chance? (Alexi Sauvage; p. 295)
Last lines: "She was an extraordinary person--steadfast, loving, and brave." [Devlin] "Yes," said Hero. "Yes, she was."
Deaths = 6 (one hit on head; three stabbed; one shot; one drowned)