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Thursday, June 2, 2011

Review: What Angels Fear by C.S. Harris

Publisher: New Amercian Library (Penguin Group)
Genre: Historical Mystery
Hardback 340 pages
Book Source: the library
My Rating: 97/100
[1st in the Sebastian St Cyr Mystery Series]

From the author's website:
The year is 1811. As old King George III sinks deeper into madness and the threat of social unrest and revolution haunts the privileged classes, a beautiful young woman is found raped and savagely murdered on the altar steps of an ancient parish church not far from Westminster Abbey. An ornate dueling pistol discovered tangled in the blood-soaked folds of Rachel York's cloak and the damning testimony of a witness both point to one man, Sebastian St. Cyr, Viscount Devlin, a brilliant young nobleman shattered by his experiences in the Napoleonic Wars. When a vicious attack during his arrest leaves a constable near death, Sebastian must run for his life.

Now a fugitive, Sebastian calls upon his experience as an agent during the war to embark on a desperate quest to catch a brutal killer and prove his own innocence. Ranging from the glittering ballrooms and sedate salons of Mayfair to the squalid back alleys and fetid churchyards of St. Giles, Sebastian accumulates a band of unlikely allies, including a street urchin named Tom, an opium-eating Irish doctor, and a lovely but mysterious actress who calls herself Kat Boleyn. Years ago, Kat broke Sebastian's heart. Now she may hold the key to his salvation—or doom him to destruction.

For as he plunges into a world of intrigue and espionage, Sebastian discovers that Rachel York was more than what she seemed. When the twisted path leads from a French spymaster to a Machiavellian power broker, and from there to the future Prince Regent, Sebastian begins to realize that Rachel's death holds ominous implications not only for Sebastian's own family, but for the future of the British monarchy.

My Thoughts:

What a page turner! I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It has a little bit of everything: a handsome and slightly damaged hero, horse chases, daring escapes, and a taste of what life was like in Regency England, on both sides of the tracks. I swear I could smell the dirty streets on the seedy side. Oh and the political intrigue. This takes place right around the time when George III was declared unfit to rule and his son the Prince of Wales was installed as the Prince Regent, ruling in his stead. The Whigs and Tories are at odds with one another about who will control things, and these political machinations have an influence on why the young lady was killed.

Even though I figured out early on who the killer was, it did not diminish my reading experience. The journey to the conclusion was exciting. Sebastian is not the son his father wanted to carry on the family legacy, but as there are no other sons, Sebastian is the only choice. Being third choice is painfully clear to Sebastian and he has spent the a better part of his life trying to rid himself of these feelings of not being well loved or unwanted. Father and son eventually hash things out, and Sebastian finally comes to terms with the situation, but in his own way.

Part of Sebastian's familial problems arise from a romance he had long ago with Rachel York. Rachel comes back to town and the attraction is hard to deny. She also has a past, aside from what she shares with Sebastian, that comes into play with the story. This was another interesting element that I hope is explored in a future book from the series. Overall this book had everything for me and I couldn't read fast it enough.

For more information about this series, please visit the author's website:

Thanks to whoever recommended this book to me or had that review that finally made me borrow it from the library.  I know this series has been all over the net, but there was one review that made me instantly request it from the library.  My bad for not remembering who it was.
2011 Challenges Met: Mystery & Suspense, HF