Where Serpents Sleep (2008) by C. S. Harris (Candice Procter); read by Davina Porter
Synopis (from my previous review): Sebastian St. Cyr, Viscount Devlin is surprised when Hero Jarvis, daughter of a man who would cheerfully have Devlin killed if he thought he could get away with it, comes to him for help. Hero is much like her father--proud, imperious, and certain to get her way, but she differs from him in one way: she is reform-minded and has been spending her time among the prostitutes doing research towards public reform for these women. Her research had taken her to the Magdalen House, a home for fallen women run by Quakers. While there one evening, men come and brutally kill eight of the women. Hero narrowly escapes after one of the women who had gone by the name of Rose dies in her arms.
The house goes up in flames and the powerful Lord Jarvis arranges for Bow Street to be satisfied that the women all died from the fire (not murdered as Hero can bear witness). He doesn't want any scandal connecting his daughter to these women from the streets and he forbids her to go to Bow Street herself. But he didn't tell her she couldn't investigate on her own...or ask for private assistance. And she wants to find out how Rose, a young woman gently born, had wound up in Magdalen House and why she had to die. So, she makes an uneasy partnership with Devlin. On the face of it, the viscount has no reason to aid his adversary's daughter, but his curiosity gets the better of him and he can't resist an opportunity to annoy Jarvis.
Their investigation takes them from the rooms of an upscale brothel to the Mayfair mansion of a well-born family and from East End docks to the steps of the House of Commons. There are secrets in that Mayfair mansion and a plot swirling around the government. But even in what they discover, all is not what it seems and they have to make their way through layers of mystery to get to the real reason for the murders. The killers are ruthless and determined to eliminate anyone who might be able to identify them and reveal their ultimate purpose. There is an attempt on Hero's life--three times--and she and Devlin narrowly escape a water death in the rising tide. Lord Jarvis won't be pleased...especially when he discovers who had marked his daughter for murder. Fortunately for him, his adversary Devlin is very good at keeping his associates out of the grave.
[Spoiler ahead--not the solution to the murders, but I reveal a portion of Devlin's story arc that those who want to follow his development over the course of the series won't want spoiled if they are reading in order.]
I read this about two years--even then it was a reread (but the first time reviewed), but when I needed an enemies to lovers book for one of my challenges I decided to revisit this story in the audio version. Davina Porter is an excellent reader of audio novels and I have enjoyed her narration of several other books. I don't listen to a great many audio novels--it's difficult for me to concentrate on them if the stories aren't ones that I have read previously. So, it was a treat to listen to her voice tell the story of Devlin and his investigation at the behest of Hero Jarvis.
This novel is a particular favorite of mine (in the Devlin series) because I quite frankly prefer Hero Jarvis to Kat Boleyn and this marks the beginning of her becoming an integral part of Devlin's life. Hero is much more his equal and a better match than Kat ever would have been. The courage she shows when confronted by the armed men out to kill her (in two attempts) as well as when she and Devlin are trapped and seemingly destined for a watery grave is terrific. This is one of my favorite historical mystery series. ★★★★
First line: The girl stared out the window, one hand sliding up and down her shawl-covered arm in a ceaseless, uneasy motion.
Last line: Tightening his knees, he sent the mare flying forward across the park. Toward his father, and toward a reconciliation too long delayed.
Deaths = 16 (four shot; seven broken necks; four stabbed; one poisoned--suicide)