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Why Mermaids Sing: A Sebastian St. Cyr Mystery    by C. S. Harris order for
Why Mermaids Sing
by C. S. Harris
Order:  USA  Can
New American Library, 2007 (2007)
* * *   Reviewed by Tim Davis

Once again, fans of Sebastian St. Cyr mysteries have something to celebrate. In her third novel featuring the early 19th century amateur sleuth, author C. S. Harris gives readers another exciting and intriguing adventure in Regency England where a dark and dangerous world lurks just beneath the veneer of social elegance in 1811.

Viscount Devlin, Sebastian St. Cyr, the sole surviving son of the Earl of Hendin, has been called upon by magistrate Sir Henry Lovejoy when a gruesome and seemingly unsolvable crime is discovered in London on the 18th of September. A young man's grotesquely mutilated body is apparently the second victim of the same killer, and the meager evidence - especially the strange objects placed in the victims' mouths - points to a serial killer, but neither St. Cyr nor Lovejoy have many clues to follow. One clue might be the small, blue and white porcelain vial of opium that was found near the body; another clue might be the bits of hay entangled in the victim's hair; and the most disturbing clue may be the ways in which each of the victims were mutilated.

St. Cyr, an aristocrat whose dark deeds haunt his past and whose dark dreams haunt his nights, ponders the similarities in both victims' cases and worries about more murders: 'This won't be the end of it,' he warns.

Meanwhile, St. Cyr's lover, Kat Boleyn, the Irish-born actress, continues to refuse St. Cyr's proposals of marriage, She, too, is haunted by a past - a phase of her life about which St. Cyr knows nothing - and now she suddenly realizes that she has become vulnerable to certain enemies whose positions of social and political power mean that Kat's future - perhaps even her life - is in great jeopardy.

Then, further alarming St. Cyr, the third and fourth murder victims are discovered, and - with only a few more clues to guide him, including a poem by John Donne - a determined St. Cyr follows an obscure trail of evidence that will ultimately mean the disclosure of a 'horror of great darkness,' a terrible secret that unites the victims and - at the same time - threatens St. Cyr and his beloved Kat.

With its intricate plot, charming protagonist, compelling characters, and shocking crimes and secrets, Why Mermaids Sing will thrill readers who enjoy their mysteries with a paradoxical mixture of the elegant and the grotesque. Author C. S. Harris deftly recreates the historical setting and at the same time succeeds in a contemporary synthesis of the styles of Jane Austen, Ann Radcliffe, M. G. Lewis, and Walter Scott. Entertaining as both mystery and literary novel, Why Mermaids Sing is most highly recommended.

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