Harris’ 4th book in her Dr. Silkstone series is another winner, this time taking on the horrors faced by slaves and former slaves in England in the 1700s. If you like historical fiction, mysteries, forensics, and a touch of romance, this series is definitely a must. I gave the novel only 4 stars because I reserve 5 stars for only the best of the best.
As has been the case with Harris’ previous novels, The Lazarus Curse is well researched (and includes a glossary and references) and well written. Harris knows how to build and sustain suspense and makes us care about her subject and her characters – even the minor characters feel multi-dimensional and real. She also portrays the period and setting extremely well, without any heavy handed descriptions.
The previous novel left Silkstone and his intended, Lady Lydia, forcibly separated from each other by a legal ruling. Silkstone is asked to catalog samples brought back from Jamaica by a New World expedition, but the expedition’s missing artist and a headless corpse tied to the pier where the expedition ship docked draw him into another murder investigation, with plots involving corpse trafficking, slavery, Jamaican potions, political ambitions, and infidelity.
This time Silkstone must do his work without Lydia’s support, while Lydia must deal alone with the problems of finding a new estate manager and raising her son. Most of the novel centers on Silkstone and his quest for the truth (which I must admit I enjoyed; Lydia never seems quite right to me). This was not a mystery I could solve before Silkstone did; but the farther I got into the book, the more I did not want to put it down. Harris ties up all the loose ends at the end, but Lydia does not know that efforts to deprive her of her son and her estate are still underway until it is too late, and we are left with another cliffhanger, wanting to read the series’ book #5.