Who Buries the Dead – A Sebastian St. Cyr Mystery #10. C. S. Harris. Penguin Group (USA). March 2015. 352 pp. pbk. ISBN #: 9780451417565.
Stanley Preston, cousin to the Home Secretary in the year 1813, lived in London, England and there is found murdered, decapitated by two young lovers heading toward a secluded area for their amorous tryst. The aristocrat, Sebastian St. Cyr is asked to help with the investigation of the grisly murder, a task he gladly enters in spite of the risk to himself, his wife and their newborn child. The investigators quickly find an engraved strap of lead near the body, an object related to the death of King Charles by beheading in 1648.
An odd hobby by several aristocrats shocks St. Cyr. It seems these gentlemen have an inordinate interest in collecting historical objects, including the heads and/or bodies of those who died by the axe for varied reasons, all of them stemming from disapproval by royalty or the ruling class. The owners see nothing odd about their ghoulish interests and the reader has a hard time not incriminating each one as they appear throughout the story. More to the point, why was that strap found near the body and what did Stanley Preston have to do with beheadings and these strange characters?
Just when St. Cyr seems totally confused, one of his enemies appears, a man reputed to be responsible for the cruel death of many Portugal residents, Mr. Stanley Oliphant, appears to muddy the waters of the investigation. Not to be daunted, St. Cyr continues in his methodical questioning of anyone even remotely connected with Preston and eventually deduces who is responsible. Will the nefarious murderer be apprehended and justice be served?
Harris’s novel is an intriguing, complex read that is delightful to follow and intriguing. Connection to fame, even if it is through physical or antique objects brings that fame into the owners’ lives. What is perceived to be grotesque is just part of the history that haunted the lives of British subjects in more ways than imagined. Very nicely constructed, C. S. Harris – recommended mystery for lovers of the genre!