Review: <i>Killing Pace</i> by Douglas Schofield Review: Killing Pace by Douglas Schofield Kristin Centorcelli Read Kristin Centorcelli's review! <i>Secrecy World</i>: Excerpt Secrecy World: Excerpt Jake Bernstein An inside look at the world revealed by the Panama Papers. <i>Hunter Killer</i>: Excerpt Hunter Killer: Excerpt David Poyer World War with China explodes in this new military thriller. Review: <i>The Best American Mystery Stories 2017</i> Review: The Best American Mystery Stories 2017 David Cranmer Read David Cranmer's review!
From The Blog
November 24, 2017
Adventures in Research, Part IV: Killing Pace
Douglas Schofield
November 23, 2017
The X-Files Fanfic: The Stories Are Out There
Joanna Schaffhausen
November 23, 2017
Thanksgiving—America’s Deadliest Holiday
Philip Jett
November 17, 2017
Man Flees Police, Hides Under the Covers, Claims He's "Just Sleeping"
Adam Wagner
November 16, 2017
Back to J. D. Robb's Future
Janet Webb
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Nov 30 2014 12:00pm

Fresh Meat: The Firebird’s Feather by Marjorie Eccles

The Firebird's Feather by Marjorie Eccles is a short historical mystery featuring a young English woman in 1911, who is investigating her mother's murder (available December 1, 2014).

The plot of The Firebird's Feather engages directly with events of the time period in which it’s set. Set in 1911 during the Imperial periods of both Russia and England, the murder victim is the daughter of a Russian revolutionary who fled to England. Though there are plausible suspects living in London’s East End – Russian expatriates - who might have killed her for political reasons, there are a host of other possibilities. Marjorie Eccles has written several novels set in the early twentieth century, and her knowledge of the period is fed smoothly into the background through the eyes of multiple point-of-view characters. The story might have benefitted from being longer, given its complexity.

[We always want more than we can have...]

Nov 26 2014 12:00pm

Fresh Meat: Gods of Gold by Chris Nickson

Gods of Gold by Chris Nickson is a historical mystery, first in a new police procedural series set in late Victorian-period Leeds, England and featuring Inspector Tom Harper (available December 1, 2014).

Chris Nickson’s interest in Leeds and its history is plain: he has a new novel coming out in January 2015 that is set there in 1954 (Dark Briggate Blues), and his Richard Nottingham mystery series is set in the same city back in the 1730s.

From the very first page, I was enthralled with the smooth integration of historical detail into the plot. Nickson depicts a wide range of social classes and professions with just as much, or perhaps more, local detail as a contemporary police procedural would include, creating an immersive effect without slowing the pace. His attention to detail means the novel feels grittily realistic, just as a procedural should be.

I would have enjoyed the book simply as a historical novel, even had the mystery not been present, because of the fascinating backdrop Nickson chose for it. 1890 was a time of intensifying disputes between laborers and their employers, and the Leeds gas-workers strike on which Nickson focuses sent angry mobs raging though the city. As gas has recently grown cheaper, the organized gas companies announce they will cut the workers’ hours for the summer and then pay them lower wages when the weather grows colder. When the workers strike, the gas companies hire strikebreakers, nicknamed “blacklegs,” and the workers’ union retaliates.

[Let's meet our hero...]

Sep 28 2014 10:00am

Fresh Meat: Two Hundred and Twenty-One Baker Streets edited by David Thomas Moore

Two Hundred and Twenty-One Baker Streets, edited by David Thomas Moore, is a Holmesian anthology of short stories that takes the famous sleuth through time and space (available October 7, 2014).

This new anthology contains fourteen stories rather than two hundred and twenty-one, but it provides more than enough variety for Holmesians. Following in the path of older anthologies such as Sherlock Holmes Through Time and Space (edited by Asimov, Greenburg, and Waugh) and Ellery Queen’s parodic The Misadventures of Sherlock Holmes, Two Hundred and Twenty-One Baker Streets explores adventures that Arthur Conan Doyle likely never imagined, and versions of Holmes and Watson from times and places far distant from Victorian London. The stories include mysteries, of course, but the true enjoyment lies in seeing how many ways these familiar characters may be manipulated and reimagined.

Jamie Wyman’s “A Scandal in Hobohemia” opens the anthology with a 1930s set story featuring a white Holmes, who runs a traveling carnival and uses his skills to tell fortunes in female garb, and a black Watson with a prosthetic leg courtesy of the Great War. Even their names have changed, but their relationship seems to be set on the same path.

[They're all worth a read!]

Dec 8 2013 12:00pm

Fresh Meat: Iron & Velvet by Alexis Hall

Iron and Velvet by Alexis HallIron & Velvet by Alexis Hall is the first book in the Kate Kane: Paranormal Investigator romantic suspense noir series (available December 16, 2013).

My name’s Kate Kane, and when an eight-hundred-year-old vampire prince came to me with a case, I should have told her no. But I’ve always been a sucker for a femme fatale.

It always goes the same way. You move too fast, you get in too deep, and before you know it, someone winds up dead. Last time it was my partner. This time it could be me. Yesterday a werewolf was murdered outside the Velvet, the night-time playground of one of the most powerful vampires in England. Now half the monsters in London are at each other’s throats, and the other half are trying to get in my pants. The Witch Queen will protect her own, the wolves are out for vengeance, and the vampires are out for, y’know, blood.

I’ve got a killer on the loose, a war on the horizon, and a scotch on the rocks. It’s going to be an interesting day.

Iron and Velvet by Alexis Hall livens its contemporary urban fantasy setting with a strong noir voice.  Detective Kate Kane, the first-person narrator, could easily slide into a black-and-white movie and begin flirting with Lauren Bacall, so long as a few vampires and fae and werewolves also showed up.  The overall tone is less dark than classic noir novels, such as those by Raymond Chandler, but Kate still shares a number of characteristics with those detectives, including drinking and women.

[Two great pasttimes...]

Nov 24 2013 2:45pm

Fresh Meat: Death Comes to the Village by Catherine Lloyd

Death Comes to the Village by Catherine Lloyd is the debut of a Regency historical mystery series featuring rector's daughter Lucy Harrington and the wounded Major Robert Kurlan (available November 26, 2013).

First in a new series of Regency-set mysteries, Death Comes to the Village by Catherine Lloyd offers a historical twist on cozies. After raising her own siblings, Lucy Harrington is facing a lifetime of housekeeping and charitable visits while her widowed father, the rector of the village, indulges his passion for both horses and their ill-tempered cook. Therefore, when wounded Major Robert Kurland sees suspicious activity from his window at night, she welcomes the distraction from her domestic woes. Meanwhile, Major Kurland is glad to be diverted from the pain and frustration of his shattered leg, as well as the fear that he will never walk or ride again.

I particularly enjoyed how the barriers Lucy faces are tied into the expectations of the historical society in which she lives. That bodes well for the series, as these issues will not go away, and will provide ongoing and hopefully evolving character tension to go along with the mystery plots. Chief among her issues is whether she will remain a spinster, caring for her father and his house, or if she will be able to go to London in search of a husband.

“I feel like a child when you treat me like one, and refuse to back my authority.”

“Don’t be silly. Didn’t I just tell Mrs. Fielding to obey your orders?”

“With the proviso that I have to listen to her about what she cooks, which defeats the whole purpose of this conversation!”

The rector sat down again and looked at her over the top of his spectacles. “I do not appreciate your tone or your anger, neither of which are appropriate for a gently born female.”

[Ah, the lacy shackles of appropriateness...]

Sep 29 2013 1:30pm

Fresh Meat: Blackstone and the Endgame by Sally Spencer

Blackstone and the Endgame by Sally SpencerBlackstone and the Endgame by Sally Spencer is tenth in a historical police procedural series featuring Inspector Sam Blackstone (available October 1, 2013). 

Spencer is a pseudonym for Alan Rustage, who also writes under the pseudonym James García Woods.

Set in London in 1916, during the First World War, the plot is set into motion by German submarine attacks on British shipping, which have caused a crisis in food supplies. Blackstone is unexpectedly asked by Special Branch to pay a large sum to a mysterious informant, without backup support.  His misgivings about the assignment, which he shares with his sergeant Archie Patterson, are quickly proven accurate. He finds himself disgraced and on the run, no surprise to the reader, since the opening scenes of the novel show him in desperate straits.

‘I’m not dying,’ Blackstone said, in a voice that was weak and cracked, but still loud enough to cause several people to turn their heads. He stopped walking and clung to the nearest lamppost for support. ‘I’m not dying,’ he said again–though in a softer tone this time. Yet he knew that he was. He had fought Afghan tribesmen and New York gangsters–he had been shot at, stabbed, and beaten–and he had survived.

[What mess has Blackstone gotten dragged into?]

Sep 22 2013 8:30pm

Fresh Meat: A Study in Silks by Emma Jane Holloway

A Study in Silks by Emma Jane HollowayA Study in Silks by Emma Jane Holloway is the debut mystery featuring the niece of Sherlock Holmes, Evelina Cooper, in a fantastic Victorian Era of ruthless steam barons, steampunk machinery, and sorcerers as the enemies of the crown (available September 24, 2013).

A Study in Silks, a debut novel by Emma Jane Holloway, is subtitled The Baskerville Affair #1, making clear that the novel is another entry in the wide world of Holmesian spinoff literature. Its heroine, Evelina Cooper, is Sherlock Holmes’s niece, with country gentry on one side of her family and circus performers on the other; Holmes makes cameo appearances in the story. More unexpectedly, steampunk and gaslight fantasy are combined with the mystery/thriller elements of the plot: Evelina’s many skills include both mechanics and magic. Finally, there is a romantic aspect. As Evelina investigates the central mystery, she wavers between two potential male partners, one from her past with the circus and another who is the brother of her aristocratic best friend, one above her rank in society and the other below. 

[And of course, there's bound to be murder, too ...]

Sep 9 2013 11:00am

Fresh Meat: The Red Queen Dies by Frankie Y. Bailey

The Red Queen Dies by Frankie Y. BaileyThe Red Queen Dies by Frankie Y. Bailey is the debut mystery featuring Detective Hannah McCabe—who works in an alternate near-future of Albany, New York in 2019—hunting a serial killer who seems connected to Alice in Wonderland (available September 10, 2013).

Frankie Y. Bailey is the author of nonfiction about crime and detective novels as well as the Lizzie Stuart mysteries, featuring a historian of crime.  She begins a new series with The Red Queen Dies, a blending of near-future science fiction with procedurals, as police detective Hannah McCabe searches for a serial killer.  Along the way, Bailey introduces futuristic technology and explores how its use might affect law enforcement from a number of different perspectives, both for the police and for average citizens.

Bailey’s mingling of past and future police methodology adds pops of interest throughout, especially when contrasted with police work that doesn’t appear to have changed much from the way it is today.

In a half squat, McCabe drew her weapon and fired. Her bola wrapped around the man’s legs. He sprawled forward, entangled in the cords, crashing into moldering cardboard boxes and other garbage. McCabe ran toward him. He twisted onto his side, trying to sit up and free himself. “Get these ropes off me, bitch!”

“Stay down,” she said, training the weapon, now set to stun, on the perp’s scrawny torso. “Roll over on your belly.” He looked up at her face, then at the gun. Either he was convinced she would use it or deterred by the minicam that was attached to the weapon and was recording their encounter.

[Even upstate, eyes are always on you...]

Sep 5 2013 5:30pm

Fresh Meat: The Bones of Paris by Laurie R. King

The Bones of Paris by Laurie R. KingThe Bones of Paris by Laurie R. King is a return for former-Bureau Agent, now private investigator Harris Stuyvesant, who'll seek a missing young woman among the notorious and artistic in Jazz Age Paris (available September 10, 2013).

Laurie R. King is best known for her long-running historical mystery series featuring detective Mary Russell and her mentor Sherlock Holmes; she’s also the author of the contemporary Kate Martinelli police procedurals.  King jumps forward a little in time to 1929 with The Bones of Paris, in which she returns to former U.S. Bureau of Investigation agent and detective Harris Stuyvesant, introduced in Touchstone, previously a standalone novel. Note there is a subplot including events that continue from Touchstone, but it is comprehensible even if you have not read that book.

Stuyvesant is a noir-style detective with few ties to anyone or anything; temporarily trapped in Berlin by lack of money, he eagerly takes a job to look for young Philippa Crosby, because the money and the needs of the search will get him to Paris again. The mystery grows steadily more macabre as it progresses, and Stuyvesant becomes more emotionally involved in the tragedies unfolding before him.

I loved the rich historical description throughout, which includes not only physical description, but a sense of how it would feel to be an expatriate in Paris in that time period, and how the expatriate community intersected with various artists and other interesting personalities who all flocked to the same city and, mostly, the same neighborhoods.

[The beautiful and bright in the City of Light...]

Aug 23 2013 8:30am

Fresh Meat: A Question of Honor by Charles Todd

A Question of Honor by Charles Todd A Question of Honor by Charles Todd is the fifth mystery featuring nurse Bess Crawford, which interweaves murders that took place in 1908 with the present chaos of the First World War (available August 27, 2013).

Heroine Bess Crawford was raised in India, the daughter of a British regimental officer. Bess was a young girl when the original crimes took place, but she saw her father’s involvement when one of his men, Lieutenant Wade, was accused of murder. Lieutenant Wade escaped and soon was presumed dead. Ten years later, Bess is a nurse serving on the Western front in the final year of World War One, or what the characters hope will be the final year, as the book ends before the Armistice.  Unexpectedly, while in the midst of caring for the wounded, she encounters an Indian support worker whose dying words indicate that Lieutenant Wade might still be alive. Bess is driven to find out more.

[Do mysteries improve with age like wine?]

Aug 19 2013 8:30pm

Fresh Meat: A Fatal Likeness by Lynn Shepherd

A Fatal Likeness by Lynn ShepherdA Fatal Likeness by Lynn Shepherd is the second mystery in the historical series about Charles Maddox, a detective in 1850s London (available August 20, 2013).

When the story begins, Charles’ thief-taker great-uncle, who trained him in many of his skills, is bedridden after an apoplexy.  This makes it all the more difficult when Charles learns his great-uncle might have ties to the mystery he’s been commissioned to investigate, and that his great-uncle’s attack might have been instigated by related events. As with the series debut The Solitary House (Tom-All-Alone’s in the U.K.), the omniscient narration offers commentary on the characters and plot, which adds to the Victorian-novel feel, though it’s sometimes distracting. Also similar to the previous novel in the series, and adding to the Victorian feel, is that Charles’ seemingly simple investigative task leads to darker and darker revelations.

[“Down the rabbit hole” does seem to be a theme...]

Aug 12 2013 8:30am

Fresh Meat: Dancer, Daughter, Traitor, Spy by Elizabeth Kiem

Dancer, Daughter, Traitor, Spy by Elizabeth KiemDancer, Daughter, Traitor, Spy by Elizabeth Kiem is a young adult paranormal spy mystery featuring a prima ballerina who goes missing and the daughter desperately searching for her (available August 13, 2013).

Journalist Elizabeth Kiem’s first novel Dancer, Daughter, Traitor, Spy, gave me a taste of what it would feel like to live in 1980s Soviet Moscow, and even though the protagonist, Marina, emigrates to the United States shortly after the novel begins, in many ways she is still trapped by the Soviet pressures of secrets and conflicting loyalties and unspoken threats.  As well as all that, Marina is a high schooler, attempting to deal with her mother Svetlana’s disappearance into a government hospital, her own unexpected and abrupt change in language, home, and social status, a potential romance, and her father’s deteriorating mental state. I was completely gripped by Marina’s emotional struggles even before the complex elements of spies, informants, and organized crime entered the story.

[Complex dance steps and elements!...]

Jul 7 2013 1:00pm

Fresh Meat: The Last Whisper in the Dark by Tom Piccirilli

The Last Whisper in the Dark by Tom PiccirilliIn The Last Whisper in the Dark, Tom Piccirilli's second novel about the criminal Rand family, prodigal thief Terrier Rand comes home (available July 9, 2013).

The Last Whisper in the Dark is a direct sequel to Tom Piccirilli’s The Last Kind Words, a noirish thriller about a family of thieves and grifters, the Rands, whose son Collie went on a killing spree. Collie’s brother Terrier, who’d tried to get away from crime for several years, was drawn back in to fulfill Collie’s last request before execution. Terrier, called Terry, is the protagonist of the sequel.

Because of a web of obligation, Terry serves as protector for an old friend, Chub, who happens to be married to a woman Terry loved and left. Terry’s devotion to the bonds of family and affiliates means he must strive to protect even those for whom he is no longer necessarily responsible. His strict code of honor seems to set him apart from the underground world in which he lives, populated by a wide cast of characters from John F. Kennedy, the Staffordshire Terrier, to his mother’s estranged family, to his Alzheimer’s-suffering grandfather.

[And they all want something...]

Jun 17 2013 5:00pm

Fresh Meat: The Summer of Dead Toys by Antonio Hill

The Summer of Dead Toys by Antonio HillThe Summer of Dead Toys by Antonio Hill is a dark, gritty police procedural set in Barcelona (available June 18, 2013).

Inspector Héctor Salgado, a transplanted Argentine living in Barcelona, is assigned to investigate a routine accidental death: a college student has fallen from a balcony in one of Barcelona’s ritzier neighborhoods. As Salgado begins to piece together the life and world of the victim, he realizes that the death may not have been an accident at all. Héctor begins to follow a trail that will lead him deep into the underbelly of Barcelona’s high society where he’ll come face-to-face with dangerous criminals, long-buried secrets, and, of course, his own past. But Héctor thrives on pressure, and he lives for this kind of case—dark, violent, and seemingly unsolvable. 

The Summer of Dead Toys by Antonio Hill is first in a new police procedural series featuring Inspector Héctor Salgado. Translated from Spanish by the original author, it’s set in contemporary Barcelona. However, the novel’s hero is a transplant from South America, an Argentine who’s not always welcome in Spain and who offers a bit of an outsider perspective, despite his long residence in Spain. As well as Salgado, we are treated to an array of intriguing secondary characters, including Salgado’s family and friends as well as other police, who will likely be further fleshed out as the series progresses.

Salgado’s moral quandaries result from dislocations between the legal requirements of his job and his own deep emotions and his opinions on appropriate payment for crimes. Salgado is a hardbitten, weary detective who still finds energy in the pursuit of justice.

[We love those disillusioned detectives...]

Jun 15 2013 11:00am

Fresh Meat: Twilight is not Good for Maidens by Lou Allin

Lou Allin, Twlight is not Good for MaidensTwilight is not Good for Maidens by Lou Allin is the third Holly Martin, Royal Canadian Mounted Police mystery (available June 18, 2013).

Corporal Holly Martin's small RCMP detachment on Vancouver Island is rocked by a midnight attack on a woman camping alone at picturesque French Beach. By the time a third young woman is raped in daylight and gives a precise description of the assailant, public outrage and harsh criticism of local law enforcement augment tensions in the frightened community.

Twilight Is Not Good for Maidens by Lou Allin is third in a series about Royal Canadian Mounted Police Corporal Holly Martin that began with And on the Surface Die. Allin is also known for her series featuring Northern Ontario realtor Belle Palmer, an amateur detective.

The plot of Twilight Is Not Good for Maidens combines a police procedural with gradually building danger from several angles that adds the feel of a thriller. It’s the first book I’ve read by this author, and as well as the new-to-me perspective of an RCMP investigation, I really enjoyed the claustrophobic feel of the forested setting, exacerbated because Martin’s detachment is located on Vancouver Island, which to some degree isolates them from the mainland.

[Isolation can breed fear]

Jun 4 2013 10:30am

Fresh Meat: The Doll by Taylor Stevens

The Doll by Taylor StevensThe Doll by Taylor Stevens is the third Vanessa Michael Munroe thriller (available June 4, 2013).

Haunted by violence, and as proficient with languages as she is with knives, Vanessa Michael Munroe, chameleon and hunter, has built her life on a reputation for getting things done—dangerous and often not-quite-legal things. On a busy Dallas street, Munroe is kidnapped by an unseen opponent and thrust into an underground world where women and girls are merchandise and a shadowy figure known as The Doll Maker controls her every move. While trusted friends race to unravel where she is and why she was taken, everything pivots on one simple choice: Munroe must use her unique set of skills to deliver a high-profile young woman into the same nightmare that she once endured, or condemn to torture and certain death the one person she loves above all else.

The Doll by Taylor Stevens is third in a series of thrillers featuring private operative Vanessa Michael Munroe. It’s the first time I’ve encountered this series, which began with The Informationist and continued with The Innocent. Munroe, skilled at strategy, tactics, and languages, is a powerful and dangerous figure whose violent aspect is reminiscent of James Bond. It’s interesting to find a female character who is allowed to be a deadly action hero rather than a sidekick or victim, particularly in a story built around sexual trafficking and violence against women. 

[Hear me roar...]

May 10 2013 8:30am

Fresh Meat: Little Green by Walter Mosley

Little Green by Walter Mosley marks the return of detective Easy Rawlins as he investigates the dark side of L.A.’s 1960s hippie haven, the Sunset Strip (available May 14, 2013).

Little Green by Walter Mosley at last brings back Easy Rawlins, this time from a near-death experience; that experience and the fallout from it is a major element of the novel. The story begins with a journey into mysticism that’s a far cry from the usual hard-boiled nature of the series, while still retaining a dark and bitter tone appropriate to it. Only gradually does the story enter the more familiar world of detective work.

Easy’s back, but he’s also changed; he’s feeling his mortality in ways he didn’t feel it before, and seeing the world changing around him.

[A near-death experience will do that to you...]

May 1 2013 8:30am

Fresh Meat: Every Contact Leaves A Trace by Elanor Dymott

Every Contact Leaves a Trace by Elanor Dymott is a debut novel that reminds us that even the people we think we know best can hide dark secrets (available May 6, 2013).

Alex is in his thirties, a solitary man who has finally found love in the form of his beautiful and vivacious wife, Rachel.

After Rachel is brutally murdered one Midsummer Night on the grounds of their alma mater in Oxford, Alex returns to the college that winter, and through the shroud of his shock and grief, begins to piece together the mystery surrounding his wife’s death. In his exploration of Rachel’s history, Alex encounters her former tutor and trusted mentor, whose influence over Rachel’s life was more significant Alex might have expected; Rachel’s self-centered and difficult godmother, whose jealousy has waxed and waned over the years; and her university friends, who shared Rachel’s love of Browning and taste for the illicit.

Every Contact Leaves A Trace is Elanor Dymott’s debut novel. As much as it’s a mystery, it’s a character study of both the narrator, Alex, and of his murdered wife, Rachel.

[How well do we ever know anyone?]

Mar 6 2013 9:30am

Fresh Meat: Dark Tide by Elizabeth Haynes

Dark Tide by Elizabeth HaynesDark Tide by Elizabeth Haynes is a suspenseful traditional mystery set in England (available March 12, 2013).

Genevieve has finally escaped the stressful demands of her job and achieved her dream: to leave London behind and start a new life aboard a houseboat in Kent. But on the night of her boat-warming party the dream is shattered when a body washes up beside the boat, and Genevieve recognizes the victim.

As the sanctuary of the boatyard is threatened, and Genevieve’s life seems increasingly at risk, she learns the real cost of mixing business with pleasure.

Elizabeth Haynes’s Dark Tide is set in contemporary England, mostly at a marina full of houseboats, with flashbacks to the heroine Genevieve’s previous life in London. Having burned out on her high-powered sales job, she turns to pole dancing to make a lot of money quickly, while doing her best to ignore the more unsavory (and possibly illegal) aspects of the club where she works. She saves all her money so she can pursue a dream:  buy a boat, fix it up so she can live there, and take time off from working. When the book opens, she’s in mid-renovation and preparing to host a boat-warming party that will mix her new friends from the marina and her old friends from London…and then, an old friend is murdered.

[But when murder is about, it’s hard to judge friend from foe...]

Feb 22 2013 9:30am

Fresh Meat: What Darkness Brings by C.S. Harris

What Darkness Brings by C.S. Harris is Book 8 in the Sebastian St. Cyr mystery series set in Regency England (available March 5, 2013).

The death of a notorious London diamond merchant draws aristocratic investigator Sebastian St. Cyr and his new wife Hero into a sordid world of greed, desperation, and the occult, when the husband of Sebastian’s former lover Kat Boleyn is accused of the murder.

For the sake of Kat, the woman he once loved and lost, Sebastian plunges into a treacherous circle of intrigue, but he finds his new marriage to Hero tested by the shadows of his first love, especially when he begins to suspect that Kat is keeping secrets of her own. And as matters rise to a crisis, Sebastian must face a bitter truth—that he has been less than open with the fearless woman who is now his wife.

C.S. Harris skillfully carries several secondary plotlines throughout her Regency-set mysteries featuring Sebastian St. Cyr; What Darkness Brings is the eighth entry in the series. 

Harris’s detective hero is the son of an aristocrat, but the reader and Sebastian have gradually learned that his origins are not clear-cut. The mystery of his origins; the mystery of what really happened to his mother; and a few side issues related to his father have run throughout the series, sometimes resulting in cliffhanger endings even after the central mystery of a novel has been solved. The mysteries of the main plotlines fall within an overarching, greater mystery: who is Sebastian? And once he knows who he is, what will he do with that knowledge?

[A mystery within a mystery...]