Why Mermaids Sing by C. S. Harris was a hard book for me to read. The killer was a serial murderer who killed good and totally innocent young men.
The main plot itself seemed sort of ordinary, but the secondary plots, the plots having to do with people like Sebastian St. Cyr's lover Kat, were amazing. Also, the central clue was a unique one. It had to do with why mermaids sing.
I had mixed feelings about this book. I picked it up because my wife and I love the writings of Bruce Alexander (Blind Justice, et al.).
The best part of this very violent story involves Sebastian St. Cyr's attempt to find, not just a killer, but also St. Cyr's own mother, his own history. That part of the story was a highlight for me.
The Sebastian St. Cyr books are historical mystery novels which deal with a little later time than Alexander's novels do. This book starts in 1811. In fact, Why Mermaids Sing mentions the subject of the Alexander novels, Henry and John Fielding's Bow Street runners, a sort of semi-official police force.
In Why Mermaids Sing, the Bow Street runners are the incompetents.
St. Cyr hopes to marry an actress, Kat Boleyn. Because of class divisions, St. Cyr's father is vehemently opposed. So the book reflects something else that rings quite true--class division, the extreme gap between the rich and the poor, the aristocratic and the non-aristocratic.
As I said before, I had mixed feelings about this book. The murders of so many young men bothered me in the way similar violence in other books hasn't. And I saw the murder plot itself as the simple working out of a complicated backstory. But the stories of the people fascinated me. Those stories alone made the book worth reading.
I will probably go back and read the first two novels in this series. Then, I expect I'll read along with C.S. Harris.