Cover Image: What Cannot Be Said

What Cannot Be Said

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date:

Member Reviews

If you like an intriguing, complex mystery with well-drawn characters and substantive historical detail don’t miss this entry in a fantastic series! I love C.S. Harris’s historical mysteries for their sense of place and time as well as the mystery and characters. The murders Lord Sebastian is investigating are tied to those of Bow Street’s magistrate Sir Henry’s wife and daughter 14 years earlier. Lady Hero’s article topics - this time on apprenticeships - allow her to ask questions under the guise of research and always give interesting insights into the early 1800s. I enjoy how the two work together to find answers and how much I learn about the times. Highly recommended.

Thanks to the publisher and NetGalley for an eARC. All opinions expressed are my own.

Was this review helpful?

C.S. Harris’ long-running series of historical mysteries feauturing aristocratic amateur sleuth Sebastian St. Cyr reaches its nineteenth instalment with What Cannot Be Said, in which our hero is asked to investigate the murder of a noblewoman and her daughter. With the mysteries around Sebastian’s own heritage and family circumstances now resolved, the last few novels in the series (as well as this one) have more of a standalone feel about them – although I do think it’s an advantage to have some knowledge of what has gone before.

It’s a sunny afternoon in July, 1815, and two brothers are in Richmond Park enjoying an afternoon away from the hubbub at home caused by their sister’s upcoming wedding. When the air is rent by two pistol shots, they immediately wonder if there’s a duel happening and race to find out, but they’re completely unprepared for what they find – a woman and a girl lying in the grass next to the remains of a picnic, their arms crossed over their bloodied chests, their bodies feet-to-feet and the air filled with the stench of fresh blood and burnt gunpowder.

The two victims are Lady Laura McInnis and her sixteen-year-old daughter, Emma, but more disturbing even than the murders themselves is the way the bodies have been posed in exactly the same way as the victims of another double murder fourteen years earlier, that of Julia and Madeline Lovejoy – the wife and seventeen-year-old daughter of Sir Henry Lovejoy, Bow Street Magistrate. But their killer, a traumatised ex-soldier, was apprehended and hanged for the crime – so could these latest murders be the work of a cruel copycat? Or, as Lovejoy is beginning to fear, could they have executed the wrong man?

I always enjoy the complexity and historicity of these mysteries; there is a lot going on beneath the surface and the author never shies away from showing us the more unpleasant and distasteful aspects of what life was like for ordinary people in the London of the early nineteenth century. Although cushioned by his station as a member of the aristocracy, Sebastian is not unaware of his privilege and is regarded by many of his peers as a dangerous radical as a result, and his wife Hero (now expecting their second child) is well-known as an advocate for social reform through her investigations and publications detailing the conditions endured by the less fortunate.

Through Hero, Sebastian learns of Lady McInnis’ work on behalf of the poor children of the city, of how she stood against the awful practice of baby farming (the upper echelons sending their by-blows to be ‘fostered’ but in effect to be killed off) and of the barbaric (and frequently life-ending) use of very young children as ‘climbing boys’ to clear chimneys of soot and debris. It seems Lady Mcinnis earned herself quite a few enemies from all strata of society – from chimney sweep to the Regent’s favourite bastard and even her own husband – by speaking out as she did, any one of whom could have had a motive to kill her. But as the pool of suspects grows, there is one thing that offers room for doubt. These people may have had reason to want Laura McInnis dead – but Emma McInnis? Why would anyone want to kill a girl not yet out of the schoolroom?

Once again, Sebastian finds himself wading through the murky underbelly of English society while at the same time going up against those of his own class who try to fob him off with lies, half-truths and threats in their attempts to prevent him from discovering what really happened. Among the latter is his powerful father-in-law, Charles Jarvis, cousin to the Prince Regent and his closest advisor, with whom Sebastian has had many a run-in and who is not above using violence to get his own way.

While Sebastian himself is an attractive and complex hero, one of the strengths of this series is the regular supporting characters, many – if not all – of whom have been present in the majority of the other books. Hero is always firmly in her husband’s corner; they’re a great match on every level and that fact absolutely shines in their scenes together. Lovejoy and Sebastian may have got off to a rocky start (in the series opener, Sebastian was wanted for murder and Lovejoy was tasked with apprehending him) but now share a strong friendship and sense of duty. I enjoy seeing Sebastian’s improving relationship with his father, the Earl of Hendon, and his aunt Henrietta, one of the doyennes of the ton and purveyor of useful gossip, is always good value. Surgeon Paul Gibson, one of Sebastian’s oldest friends, is frequently called upon to perform post mortems – although in the last few books, we’ve witnessed his increasing dependence on opium for pain relief (he lost the lower half of one leg to a French cannonball) and Sebastian’s growing fears for his friend’s life.

The author skilfully incorporates the different characters and relationships into the story without taking focus away from the mystery, and once again weaves lots of fascinating historical detail seamlessly into the story. What Cannot Be Said definitely feels like one of the darker entries in the series, given the spotlight the author shines on the inhumanity exhibited by so many towards the defenceless, and the glimpses we get of the utterly terrifying ‘treatments’ for mental illness espoused at the time - and the final twist in the dénouement is shocking and tragic, both in terms of the solution to the whodunnit and what happens in the aftermath.

C.S. Harris has once again crafted a compelling, complex mystery and combined it with lots of fascinating historical detail to produce another riveting instalment in what is, surely, the best historical mystery series around. I’m sure fans of the Sebastian St. Cyr series will need no encouragement to dive in – and, as I said at the beginning of this review, the book works as a standalone, so new readers will find much to enjoy here, too.

Was this review helpful?

The latest in a long running series that continues to evolve and surprise - and this can be happily read as a standalone. There's a fiend afoot in London and Sebastian, a wealthy titled man who is also an investigator, is enlisted to find him before he kills again, Sebastian's wife Hero and her connections thanks to her charity work once again plays a key role. And then there's Lovejoy, whose wife and daughter were also murdered. Thanks to Netgalley for the ARC. It's complex and atmospheric- a great historical mystery.

Was this review helpful?

A gritty mystery book set during Napolean's regin. You will get a suspenseful read. You will learn about the working class life in Regency era. Truly the best historical mystery writer.

Was this review helpful?

Exciting times are afoot in England and the world. Napoleon has met his final defeat and is being sent to St. Helena in disgrace and exile. I always, always, always love the books in this series because they seamlessly mix true historical facts with an engrossing mystery and engaging characters. The author’s notes are a wonderful history lesson themselves, and I always read them and admire the level of research this author does to present us with a realistic view of the times while also giving us a fictional mystery that keeps you guessing until the end.

On a beautiful July day, two brothers are escaping all of their sister’s wedding preparations by spending the afternoon at Richmond Park. They are having an uproarious time (did I mention they are tipsy?) until they hear two gunshots – one right after the other. They will never forget what they see as they crest the hill toward the area where the gunshots were fired. There, in an idyllic setting, are two bodies – lying foot-to-foot with their hands folded over their chests.

Magistrate Lovejoy immediately recognizes the area and the way the victims are posed because it brings back the most painful memories of his life – the murder of his wife and daughter fourteen years ago. That murder was solved though – wasn’t it? A man covered in his family’s blood was arrested and hanged – did they get it wrong? Is this a sick copycat murder? He doesn’t know, but he’ll definitely request Sebastian St. Cyr’s assistance.

The investigation takes us from high places to low. You’ll find spoiled, rich, aristocrats whose debauchery is well hidden – and you’ll also find good, honest, loving, and caring aristocrats who only want to help the world. Into the mix you’ll meet every manner of non-aristocrats as well – those who abuse, and those who nurture. The problem for Lovejoy and Sebastian is figuring out which is which – and who did what. It is a sad and poignant journey for Lovejoy and a shocking revelation for everyone when the murderer is revealed.

In this dark and compelling tale, you’ll find scenarios with Social injustice/parity, baby farms, insane asylums, cruel apprentice systems, child labor, and the plight of women who are property rather than people. Yes, there is all of that but it is in the background surrounding the excellently paced, well-written mysteries surrounding multiple murders. I recommend this book – and this entire series. Every book in the series has been an excellent read and I recommend you read all of the books in order. Yes, you can read this one as a standalone, but why would you want to when all of that background and character-building makes your enjoyment even more intense? Each new book in the series is a must-read for me, and I hope you’ll give it a try and become as addicted as I am. Happy Reading!

I voluntarily read and reviewed an Advanced Reader Copy (ARC) of this book. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

Was this review helpful?

the setup…
It’s the summer of 1815 and London is preparing to celebrate Napoleon’s defeat at Waterloo. But when Lady McInnis and her sixteen-year old daughter are found murdered in Richmond Park, London is in full upset. Even more bizarre is the position in which they were found…their bodies posed in the same way as another woman and her daughter were fourteen years ago. That woman and child were Bow Street Magistrate Sir Henry Lovejoy’s wife and daughter. Their murderer was captured and hanged so did they execute the wrong man or is this a cruel copycat? Lovejoy enlists the help of Viscount Devlin, Sebastian St. Cyr.

the heart of the story…
I love being back in the world of Sebastian St. Cyr again and this time the case is not only strange but heartbreaking. As Sebastian begins his investigation, he discovers that Laura McInnis was an even bigger social activist regarding the plight of poor children than what his wife Hero has taken on. She created a host of enemies in the process, high and low born, as well as her own husband. I was all over the place with good suspects and viable theories, assembling clues cleverly…and still missed it. This was great stuff.

the bottom line…
As with every book in this series, the historical aspects are just as intriguing as the mystery at the forefront. The dire situation of poor children was beyond heartbreaking and the indifference during that time was painful. It was a vicious cycle that spanned decades, unfortunately. It was the backdrop of the story, along with a frightening look at some of the so-called “therapies” for mental illness. It’s an extraordinary story with an explosive twist. Sebastian faced quite a few threats, including one from his father-in-law. The political intrigue is palpable, the stage set for the next story. And, there’s plenty on the personal front. This series is one of the finest of the genre.

Was this review helpful?

"What Cannot Be Said" is a mystery set in 1815 in London. This book is the 19th in a series. You can understand it without having read the previous novels, and it didn't spoil the whodunits of the previous mysteries.

The historical information was woven into the story without slowing the pacing. It created a distinct feeling of that specific time and place and helped bring the story alive in my imagination. The characters were interesting, complex, and acted in realistic ways. Both Hero and Sebastian were involved in the investigation. They tracked down leads and asked good questions. Though there were plenty of suspects, I guessed whodunit before Sebastian. I understood why he didn't guess whodunit sooner, though.

There were no sex scenes. There was a fair amount of bad language. Overall, I'd recommend this interesting historical mystery.

Was this review helpful?

"A seemingly idyllic summer picnic ends in a macabre murder that echoes a pair of slayings fourteen years earlier in this riveting new historical mystery from the USA Today bestselling author of Who Cries for the Lost.

July 1815: The Prince Regent's grandiose plans to celebrate Napoléon's recent defeat at Waterloo are thrown into turmoil when Lady McInnis and her daughter Emma are found brutally murdered in Richmond Park, their bodies posed in a chilling imitation of the stone effigies once found atop medieval tombs. Bow Street magistrate Sir Henry Lovejoy immediately turns to his friend Sebastian St. Cyr, Viscount Devlin, for help with the investigation. For as Devlin discovers, Lovejoy's own wife and daughter were also murdered in Richmond Park, their bodies posed in the same bizarre postures. A traumatized ex-soldier was hanged for their killings. So is London now confronting a malicious copyist? Or did Lovejoy help send an innocent man to the gallows?

Aided by his wife, Hero, who knew Lady McInnis from her work with poor orphans, Devlin finds himself exploring a host of unsavory characters from a vicious chimney sweep to a smiling but decidedly lethal baby farmer. Also coming under increasing scrutiny is Sir Ivo McInnis himself, along with a wounded Waterloo veteran - who may or may not have been Laura McInnis's lover - and a charismatic young violinist who moonlights as a fencing master and may have formed a dangerous relationship with Emma. But when Sebastian's investigation turns toward man about town Basil Rhodes, he quickly draws the fury of the Palace, for Rhodes is well known as the Regent's favorite illegitimate son.

Then Lady McInnis's young niece and nephew are targeted by the killer, and two more women are discovered murdered and arranged in similar postures. With his own life increasingly in danger, Sebastian finds himself drawn inexorably toward a conclusion far darker and more horrific than anything he could have imagined."

You know, there are just not enough evil baby farmers in literature anymore.

Was this review helpful?

Whenever I’m asked for recommendations in the historical mystery genre this series is always the one that I end up recommending. It’s so well done, with a wonderful cast of characters and each new mystery still keeps me on the edge of my seat until it’s usual fiery conclusion. It never feels stale, and I never get bored, and I’m always excited to see what comes next.

This entry into the series hits a bit too close to home for one member of the extended cast of characters as the discovery of the dead bodies of a mother and daughter eerily resembles the crime scene of Sir Henry Lovejoy’s wife and daughter 14 years before. Sebastian is called in on the case, and as he looks into the life and associations of Lady McInnis and her young daughter, his list of suspects on grows larger and more complex.

This case haunts Lovejoy as he must deal with the fact that he may have arrested the wrong man, who was ultimately convicted and hung. His tumultuous feelings and desire to find out what really happened all those years ago, lend an even more somber air over the investigation. I found this book to be one of the darker and more grim entries in the series, which is saying a lot.

Along with Sebastian, Hero makes her usual appearances, helping out where she can and interviewing subjects that Sebastian cannot. She is indispensable to any investigation, and I love her and her insights. Gibson is still fighting his dependance on opium, and readers are left with hope that his lover Alexi can finally help him break through the pain of his missing limb and addiction to the relief that opium provides with her unusual methods.

This is not a book you can read as a standalone, and I know nineteen books can be daunting when thinking of starting a new series, but just know that it is so worth it if you decide to jump in. The Sebastian St. Cyr series continues to be one of my absolute favorites in the genre, and I look forward to whatever comes next.

Was this review helpful?

4 stars for a fine addition to the Sebastian St. Cyr series of mysteries set in Regency England. This book opens with Devlin(Sebastian) called to the scene of two murders in London, July, 1815. A woman named Lady McInnis and her daughter have been savagely killed and their bodies have been posed in a manner eerily similar to two murders that happened 14 years ago.. The two previous murders were the wife and daughter of Sir Henry Lovejoy, who is the Investigating Magistrate for these 2 murders. He calls his friend Devlin to assist him in solving the two murders. Lovejoy is haunted by the possibility that he may have convicted and hung the wrong man 14 years ago. Devlin is a wealthy aristocrat and investigates murders without pay. He started out doing this to clear his name in book 1 when he was framed for a murder that he did not commit.
This is book 19 in the series. It can be read as a stand alone, but you will better understand the characters if you read the series in order. This book was a fast read--2 days for me.
One quote on Devlin's reaction to the two bodies: "He'd spent six years at war, yet he still found violent death disturbing and the senseless loss of the young particularly so. But there was something about the careful posing of those two innocent victims that transcended both tragedy and loss, that hinted at a level of human malevolence that reached beyond revenge to something he could only understand as evil."
#WhatCannotBeSaid #NetGalley. Thanks to Berkley Publishing for sending me this eARC through NetGalley.

Was this review helpful?

Thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for the ARC
4.5 / 5 Warning; some graphic descriptions of violence

I am a big fan of this series by C.S. Harris - the author grounds her characters in very well researched historical events and immerses the reader in those events, and the locations her characters inhabit. I also appreciate that the books follow one another by only several months in the characters' time. Most also unfold over the course of only a few days.

This instalment takes place shortly after the British victory at Waterloo. However, Sebastian, Hero and Sir Henry (of Bow Street) get involved in trying to solve a murder that has far too much similarity to the murder of Sir Henry's family 15 years previously. As always the author adds details that bring the setting to life, and makes sure that the characters are carrying out their investigation in the larger context of life in London at that exact moment in time. She also skilfully weaves in details about the problems that society was dealing with and trying to change, which makes this series so different from many Regency offerings that focus on fun and parties.

I love this series for the great writing, realism and the very complicated plots. Recommended for fans of accurately historical historical fiction; readers new to this author should start much earlier in the series to get all the nuances and become familiar with the large cast of characters.

Was this review helpful?

I say it every year, but it’s true. A series on its 19th book that has maintained the quality level throughout is so impressive. While I did find this story to be very bleak and dark, the suspense and storytelling is top-notch, and I so enjoy coming back into Sebastian‘s world with every new installment.

It’s just another great read in a great series. In one sense, I want to say you kind of know what you’re going to get going in - a great story centered around Sebastian and a rich group of supporting characters, but on the other hand, every story is unique and engaging, and it never feels like anything gets repeated.

I can’t recommend this series enough. It is so well done and still going strong.

(Posted to Goodreads)

Was this review helpful?

C. S. Harris delivers another strong addition to her St. Sebastian series - her finesse with regard to making her characters engaging and real, across time and history, continues to astound and delight. A taut mystery plot as well as the promise of changes for some of her secondary characters makes this a must read.

Was this review helpful?

In faithful style of her St. Cyr series, Harris creates a mystery of ugly murder with many twists, weaving true history, danger, and fictional characters into a surprising finale. Sebastian is a very human character, flawed and wily. Each book in this series is highly anticipated and the returning characters welcomed.

Was this review helpful?

An absolutely stellar new edition to one of my favorite historical fiction authors, C.S. Harris has truly outdone herself with "What Cannot Be Said." A murder mystery in which I can never guess the ending. along with her ability to truly capture the time and feel of regency England are some of the things I most enjoy about her books, and this newest edition had everything I have come to expect and love from an author of her caliber. I even found myself rereading wonderful exchanges between the characters or certain passages because they were so good! This book definitely is for the mystery lover, but one of the things I really enjoy about this series is the wonderful, ongoing romance between Sebastian and his wife, Hero. I would say this is the perfect book to read at the beach, on vacation, at home, listen to in the car...just somehow read it! You won't be sorry. I highly recommend this book and can't wait to get my hands on a paper copy!

Was this review helpful?

This was dark, darker than a lot of the stories in this series, barring just a couple. I found the lack of character development a little disappointing, but this mystery was well-crafted because the resolution was so insidious. The reader is not left with a comforting feeling, and sometimes that’s just the way it goes. I hope for more character development in future.

Was this review helpful?

It's July 1918; Napoleon has surrendered to the English, Prince Regent is planning an elaborate celebration, and a woman and her daughter are brutally murdered in Richmond Park. The staging of the murder is nearly identically to the murder of Sir Henry Lovejoy's wife and daughter 14 years prior. As additional murders are staged and attempts are made on the lives of potential witnesses, Sebastian and Lovejoy race to find the killer or killers. As with all of Harris' books, they are meticulously researched and rich in the history of the times. The story is engaging and the characters are like old friends. Will read this series as long as Harris wants to write it.

Was this review helpful?

Sebastian, Hero, Gibson, and Sir Henry are back as they all have a hand in investigating the murder of a mother and daughter that harkens back to a similar murder 14 years before. It was nice to finally find out what had happened to Lovejoy's family, though it was sad to watch him deal with that while trying to solve this murder. Harris is so good at keeping you guessing about the culprits until the end, and What Cannot Be Said continues that streak as I went back and forth on who was guilty. I just love this series and look forward to recommending it highly. Don't skip out on the author notes, either because they're always full of additional details - and in this case a clue to the next book. I did miss seeing more of Gibson and hope with the turn at the end that he will appear more in the next one. A huge thank you to Berkley and NetGalley for the early access in exchange for my honest opinion.

Was this review helpful?