I normally try to start a new series with the first book so that I can have a full understanding of characters and motivations. My reason for beginning with book 3 in the Sebastian St. Cyr Mysteries was because I read the first few chapters and was instantly intrigued. Since the first two books weren't in stock, I picked up the two that were, books 3 and 4 and ended up being happy I did.
Why Mermaids Sing is book three in the Sebastian St. Cyr Mystery series. Someone is killing the sons of powerful men in Regency England. When a second young man is found dead in the same manner of one just months prior, Chief Magistrate, Sir Henry Lovejoy enlists the assistance of Sebastian St. Cyr in finding the killer. Since Sebastian is a Viscount and from the same world as the two young men found dead, Lovejoy believes that he's the right person for the job. Sebastian takes up piecing the clues of the murders together and it becomes a race against time, because the closer Sebastian gets to the killer the more bodies he leaves behind.
The downside to starting this series on the third book are the many relationship threads that I didn't have a full grasp of, but the background info did help me piece things together. Sebastian interacts with a lot of people throughout the course of the book. There is an antagonistic relationship between he and Lord Jarvis, cousin to the prince regent. A shaky one between Sebastian and his father, a lighthearted one with his friend Paul Gibson, and a romantic one with his lover, the beautiful actress Kat Boleyn. These relationships are woven through the story alongside the mystery, at times crossing over.
Of all the relationships, I disliked Sebastian and Kat the most. I'm a romantic at heart and can usually find something to love about all romantic pairings, but these two lacked spark. Sebastian is so in love with Kat that he can forgive her anything, and so absolutely soft with her that I felt he was out of character. Kat fills the role of "prostitute with a heart of gold" so well it was a bit nauseating. She's also a martyr, which doesn't help my opinion of her. They got along like two peas in a pod and yet, I was most happy toward the end of the book when a secret is revealed that causes them to part ways. I think it would serve me well to go back and read the first two books so that maybe I will appreciate Kat more.
The mystery was interesting, but I didn't like that there were no clues that pointed to the killer. Also the killer's logic was flimsy at best and even though his reasons were explained, I felt he lacked the background that would make his intense anger understandable. But that's just me. Grade B-
Where Serpents Sleep picks up months after the end of Why Mermaids Sing. Having found out a devastating secret, Sebastian and his love Kat have broken off their engagement and Sebastian is on the outs with his father. He's been living a dissolute life since then, getting lost in alcohol and debauchery. Sebastian is perfectly content to keep on this way but then Blue Stocking, Hero Jarvis (the aptly named daughter of his enemy) comes to him seeking his assistance with a dangerous situation she's become involved in, and Sebastian can not resist a good mystery. He and Hero form a reluctant duo and set out, both in their own ways, to find the killers responsible for the deaths of eight prostitutes.
If you like heavy, all-encompassing mysteries then this series is probably not for you. While the mystery in this book was easy to follow and in the end everything made sense, there was nothing stand out about it. I went into this series for the mystery, but have found that I enjoy the relationship threads a lot more. Between Sebastian and his father, Sebastian and Lord Jarvis, Sebastian and Hero and Hero and her father, Lord Jarvis, there is a lot to love. The characters are exceptionally well drawn, though I find Lord Jarvis to be a bit of a caricature at times, but that could very well be the way he is supposed to be.
As a whole, I liked Where Serpents Sleep a lot more than Why Mermaids Sing, I believe because of Hero. She's my type of heroine. Smart, adept, witty, and a worthy match to the hero-- in this case Sebastian. In fact, I enjoyed Hero more than Sebastian in this book, most likely because of Sebastian's sadness due to his severed relationship with Kat. In Why Mermaids Sing, I didn't really take to Kat, which made it hard to sympathize with Sebastian's current plight. I much prefer Sebastian with Hero. Sure, their relationship is nothing short of contentious, but they have a mutual respect and a certain like-mindedness that makes them an interesting pair. I am intrigued by these two and look forward to seeing where they go. Grade B+
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