Why Mermaids Sing: Murder and John Donne

In 1811 London, someone is brutally killing young men and displaying the bodies in prominent places where they will be found quickly and attract much notice.  Never fear, for Sebastian St. Cyr, Viscount Devlin, is on the case. It is obvious that the murders are connected based on items left on each body and the manner of death, and St. Cyr quickly tracks down the significance of the items to a John Donne poem.  What is less obvious is why the murders are connected.  St. Cyr along with a quirky cast of characters must figure out this connection before more murders occur.  At the same time, his mistress is acting mysterious and facing demons of her own and his relationship with his father continues to be strained.

Why Mermaids Sing is C.S. Harris’ third installment in her Sebastian St. Cyr mystery series.  I read the first book, What Angels Fear, a few years ago and stumbled across the sequels recently.  I remember liking the first book a lot.  I checked out the second and the third book in the series, but I grabbed the wrong one and read the third one first.  After reading the third one, I don’t think I’m going to go back and read the second one.

This book was an extremely quick read.  I had read 100 pages before I even realized it and finished it in about 4 hours.  It’s a good beach read.  In some ways the plot was too elegantly handled.  There is a grittiness to the situations faced and the characters themselves.  They are all haunted and scarred in ways visible and invisible, and the connection between the murdered sons is quite gruesome, but it’s almost easy to overlook because of the elegance of the novel.  Harris has a Ph.D in history, and her details and depiction of the beliefs and mores of the time are great.

This book won’t change your world, but it is a good, quick read if you like Regency or period murder mysteries.  In a lot of ways, it reminded me of From Hell and other books dealing with Jack the Ripper (even though they are set in the later Victorian era).

Also recommended:  The Alienist (Carr)


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