Fantasy Mystery Romance Comics Non-Fiction

Who Speaks for the Damned

Monday, April 20, 2020

Who Speaks for the Damned (2020) C.S. Harris (Sebastian St. Cyr)

Who Speaks for the DamnedSet in London in 1814

I have loved this series since the start, and generally adore her writing.


Third Person Omniscient POV does NOT WORK if you are hiding a person’s gender. It just DOESN’T. It is stilted and kludgy and what you’re doing is obvious. So I spent a good deal of the story being annoyed every time.

A lone and trying desperately not to be afraid, the child wandered the narrow, winding paths of the tea gardens. Ji could hear laughter and the voices of other garden visitors in the distance. The day had been hot— unusually so for June, the child heard people say. But the sun was beginning to sink in the clear lavender blue sky, lengthening the shadows beneath the arbors and hinting at the chill of coming evening. The scent of roses and peonies drifted sweetly on the moist air, stirring unbidden memories of the shady walkways and placid canals of the Hong merchant’s private gardens. A wave of homesickness washed over the child, bringing a painful lump to Ji’s throat, and the sting of threatening tears.

I’m sorry, but that’s not subtle, and it’s almost impossible to keep for an entire story. In fact, she slips up several times.

As his breathing slowed, Ji washed at a public pump, then bought bread and gave half of it to the birds while chanting sutras…

It’s just awkward and makes me immediately figure out the “secret” because no one EVER does that for a male character. It’s always a female character hiding her gender.


So that actually dinged this story an entire grade for me, because I find it that irritating and frustrating.

So. How was the rest of the book.

The rest of the book was good.

An exiled nobleman has somehow ended up dead in Pennington’s Tea Gardens. Stabbed in the back with a sickle. Sebastian ends up investigating because the dead man had known his valet, Calhoun, and come to him for help. But once Sebastian starts looking into the murder, things that were seemingly clear start not to make sense, and he begins to wonder if Hayes had actually been deserving of transportation.

So there are several bits in this story that, perhaps a decade or two ago, we might thing were overblown, but now, are rather terrifying.

Theodore Brownbeck, a banker who’d made a vast fortune through adroit investments. He was still a powerful figure in the financial affairs of the City, but lately he’d taken to devoting more and more of his time to producing an endless outpouring of works on religion, morality, crime, and the poor. The theme that ran through them all was the conviction that any attempt to educate or improve the living standards of the lower classes was a crime against God and nature. According to Brownbeck, what he sneeringly called “the good intentions of the feebleminded” would only result in inculcating a “sense of entitlement and lethargy” amongst a class ordained by their Creator to be worthy of nothing more than a life of hard work and an early death.

Forbes was more than ruthless. Under his stewardship, the company had forced the area’s farmers to shift from growing grain to the production of opium. When a famine hit, close to a million people starved to death. But whenever the topic came up, Forbes would simply shrug and say India was overpopulated anyway.

Sentiments I hear terrifying echoes of today.

Sebastian, though all this, retains his ethics–and remains in opposition to Jarvis, his father-in-law. But it’s mostly his ethics that I like to much–and with the reminder that Sebastian has dealt with adversity.

You may consider yourself a moral, ethical, and honest man— loyal and true and all that rot, as you English like to say. But you have no idea how you would behave in adversity. No idea at all.”

“I spent six years at war. You think I haven’t faced adversity?”

LaRivière’s eyebrows arched. “Perhaps you have.

In sum, it’s a good mystery, and I enjoyed the story, but the third person omniscient point of view for the sections of the story involving Ji are maddening.

Publisher: Berkley
Rating: 7.5/10


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