C.S. Harris continuing saga II

June 7, 2011


This fifth book in the continuing St. Cyr series, What Remains of Heaven, was the least satisfying read so far for me.

Oh sure, we still get to visit with Sebastian, he of the feral yellow night vision eyes and matching ears. The ears aren't yellow, but they can hear things from far far away - and he's not even a vampire!!! I think.

And we get to see Hero Jarvis again, and she seems to be extraordinarily intelligent. Now, if this were a romance book, I would at this point find myself getting irritated with Hero's stubbornness and Sebastian's inability to get over Kat. I've never been too keen on heroes who are unable to get over their first love, especially when they are blind to the perfect match standing right in front of them. (Even with night vision.)

Now there are a couple of things I have to force myself to remember. I am used to picking up a book and reading about a couple that meet, have misunderstanding/mystery/fight, resolve the problem, then have a HEA. And all in 200-300 pages or less. Now I have read 5 books, written over a time period of 5-6 years but cover a period of a few months. And the personal stuff is slow going and that I'm not used to. And, secondly, I have to keep reminding myself that this is not a romance book, but a murder-crime-mystery series.

Which leads me to what format I find irritating in murder-crime-mystery stories. I call them the "ice cube formulas" and Agatha Christie was a master of the "ice cube formula." Let me explain how that formula works with an old childhood puzzle that goes something like this: There's this dead man hanging from the ceiling, in a room that is locked from the inside, he's not tall enough to reach the ceiling, there are no chairs in the room and the coroner has ruled it a suicide. Now, in an Agatha Christie story this part is mentioned to us in the first or second chapter; it isn't until the second to the last chapter in the book that Poirot/Marple/Tommy/Tuppence reveal to us that there was also a puddle of water on the floor beneath the dead guy. It would appear our victim stood on a block of ice, which melted, resulting in his death - hence "ice cube formula," or the art of withholding clues and information until the end. Sometimes there is also the introduction of some character who usually turns out to be the illegitimate cousin to Lady so and so's husband's brother's step-son's cousin. I object to these type of non-clues in my mystery stories. And this story had them.

Yes, I know a mystery is, well, a mystery, and things are supposed to be hidden from us, the readers. However, part of the fun in reading a mystery is to see if you can guess who did it before the detective/sleuth/retired old lady/nun/monk does. And, so mystery writers need to walk a thin line of hiding clues and not hiding clues. Much to my disappointment, C.S. Harris didn't walk that line very well in What Remains of Heaven. Also, this time the secondary story of romance didn't save the story.

I am now waiting patiently for the sixth book in the series, Where Shadows Dance, to be returned to the library.

Time/Place: Regency England
Sensuality Rating: None

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