by Tessa Harris
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Format: Paperback, 356 pgs.
Published: Dec. 31st 2013 by Kensington
Genre: Mystery, Historical Fiction
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A man staggers out of his cottage into the streets of Oxfordshire, shattering an otherwise peaceful evening with the terrible sight of his body shaking and heaving, eyes wild with horror. Many of the villagers believe the Devil himself has entered Joseph Makepeace, the latest victim of a "great fog" that darkens the skies over England like a Biblical plague. When Joseph's son and daughter are found murdered--heads bashed in by a shovel--the town's worst suspicions are confirmed: Evil is abroad, and needs to be banished.
A brilliant man of science, Dr. Thomas Silkstone is not one to heed superstition. But when he arrives at the estate of the lovely widow Lady Lydia Farrell, he finds that it's not just her grain and livestock at risk. A shroud of mystery surrounds Lydia's lost child, who may still be alive in a workhouse. A natural disaster fills the skies with smoke and ash, clogging the lungs of all who breathe it in. And the grisly details of a father's crime compels Dr. Silkstone to look for answers beyond his medical books--between the Devil and the deep blue sea. . . -Goodreads
“An evil presence was hovering over the land. The devil was clapping his hands to make thunder, breathing over the countryside to create this deadly fog. Where was God in all this mayhem, or had He created this catastrophe?” (pg. 198)
Within the poisonous veil of the sulphuric fog, poisoned minds are at work causing mayhem and destruction. While the fog is killing crops and people, another force is murdering those deemed unworthy, and yet a different force is killing Thomas and Lydia’s hope at happiness.
“It was as if nature and science were colluding together to try to tell him something urgent and important. He only wished knew what.” (pg. 19)
The search for Lydia’s son is on, as her and Thomas follow whatever clues they have to try to get him back. Little do they know, someone else is set on finding the boy first, thus thwarting Lydia and Thomas’ efforts. This constant cat and mouse game kept a good drive throughout the book as it started the suspense of the book for me. I wanted nothing but for Lydia to finally meet and bring her son home, but then a twist was thrown in, and I was hit with a bunch of emotions. I was mad that Lydia and Thomas were not quicker in their search, I felt bad for Thomas because he’s truly a great person, yet have a lot of people against him, and I wanted nothing but to sucker punch Sir Montagu Malthus because he never seems to get what he deserves.
While the deadly fog and mysterious weather sets the tone for the entire book, more suspense it built after the middle of the book with the murders of a couple adults and children. Thomas Silkstone finds that these deaths are no accident, nor are they attributed with to the fog, and he uses his medical and forensic methods to analyze the evidence left by the killers. Although several clues infer who a crazed murderer might be, whether through allusion or cleverly embedded in context, it was still engrossing and thrilling to read as I kept going with bated breath down the crazed rabbit hole.
“The fog had brought with it so many unforeseen consequences. It had opened some people’s hearts and minds to each other and it had closed others. It had filled some heads with fantastic notions and others with practical reason. It had turned wicked men to religion and previously good men into murderers.” (pg. 331)
I whole-heartedly believe that this is the best of the Dr. Silkstone series, as it takes us on a devilish ride of death, love, corruption, and psychotic righteousness. I love how I always learn something new about history in this series, as I had never heard of this deadly fog that’s played a major part of our earth’s atmosphere, before now. I love and fully comprehend the religious theme that The Devil’s Breath takes on. This murderous haze not only affected the area’s people physically and mentally, but spiritually as well. I recommend this book, and indeed this series, to those into historical mysteries with a suspenseful storyline, and love learning new things.
First Line: “At first the horror of it stayed the bury man’s tongue.” (pg. 1)
Last Line: Spoiler?