C.S. Harris on ‘Who Buries the Dead’
C.S. Harris joins us to talk about her latest mystery, Who Buries the Dead.
Who Buries the Dead is the tenth Sebastian St. Cyr mystery. What would you like new readers to know about this series?
Each of the books in the series is written as a standalone mystery, so you don’t need to have read the previous books to enjoy Who Buries the Dead.
That said, there is an overarching mystery in the series as Sebastian first discovers he’s not exactly who he always believed himself to be and then sets out to find the answers to a number of disturbing questions. The series is also very much the story of Sebastian’s redemption. When we first meet Sebastian in What Angels Fear, he’s severely damaged by an incident in his past, a horrific tragedy that took place in the mountains of Portugal during the Napoleonic Wars. At one point, the lingering trauma from that event comes close to destroying him. In many ways, it’s his dedication to solving murders that saves him—that, and his love for the strong women in his life.
The series begins at the same time as the proclamation of the Regency and flows forward from there. A number of the significant historical events of each year—plus some that aren’t as well known—are woven into the series. So at the same time as we see Sebastian changing—along with his family, friends, and enemies—we also see the changes taking place in England and on the Continent.
The Regency period and the English location feel so vivid to us. Can you tell us about your research process?
I hold a PhD in European history, with the period from 1750 to 1850 as my major area of concentration. So I started with a solid grounding in the political, military, cultural, and philosophical developments of the period. But I still do an enormous amount of research for each book. For Who Buries the Dead, I read a ton of biographies of Jane Austen as well as her own letters, and I reread all of her novels to make sure I was true to her “voice.”
I used to collect memoires and old nineteenth century guidebooks to London, but thanks to Google Books and the Gutenberg Project, they’re now available online. They’re wonderful sources for both telling little details and story inspirations—like the rediscovery of Charles I’s tomb in early 1813, which plays an important role in Who Buries the Dead.
You had us at “Mr. Darcy with a James Bond edge” – how did you come up with Sebastian St. Cyr?
I wanted to write a historical mystery series with a sexy, compelling male protagonist, someone who’s smart and edgy and dangerous, yet bound by a strict inner moral code. I liked the idea of making him a nobleman because I wanted him to be able to move freely through the drawing rooms and gentlemen’s clubs of Mayfair, which a man with a lower social status wouldn’t be able to do. At the same time, his military background gives Sebastian the skills and experience he needs to plunge into the city’s worst slums, to assume disguises and fight to the death if needed. And the lingering trauma from the shattering experience that drove him out of the army provides the motivation that explains why he risks his life over and over again to bring justice to the victims of murder.
What can readers expect from you next?
The eleventh book in the series, When Falcons Fall, will see Hero and Sebastian travel to Shropshire for reasons that become clear at the end of Who Buries the Dead. This will be the first Sebastian book that takes place entirely outside London, and writing it was both challenging and a lot of fun. I’m now starting #12, Where the Dead Lie, which is going to introduce some important and potentially devastating changes to Hero and Sebastian’s lives.
What books are currently on your nightstand?
I’ve just started The Complete Edgar Allen Poe. I haven’t read Poe since I was in school, so I decided it was time to revisit him. I’m also reading John Sandford’s Shock Wave. I’ve never been a huge fan of Davenport, but Virgil Flowers is a very compelling character.
Learn more and order your copy of Who Buries the Dead here.
C. S. Harris has written more than a twenty novels, including the Sebastian St. Cyr mystery series (Why Kings Confess, What Darkness Brings, When Maidens Mourn); as C. S. Graham, a thriller series coauthored by former intelligence officer Steven Harris; and seven award-winning historical romances written under the name Candice Proctor.
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