When I made my list for this year’s RIP challenge, I decided to give priority to books I’ve been wanting to read for a while rather than search out new titles. What Angels Fear, the first in CS Harris’ Sebastian St. Cyr mystery series, is one of those books. I can’t remember where I first heard about this series but I know it has been recommended to me several times over the last few years and did sound like something I would enjoy. There are now ten books in the series, which is slightly overwhelming, especially as I’m already in the middle of so many other series, but I thought it was time I at least gave the first one a try.
What Angels Fear is set in London in 1811. With King George III suffering from mental illness, the Prince of Wales is preparing to start his period as Regent and members of the two main political parties, the Whigs and the Tories – who are strongly divided over issues such as Britain’s role in the Napoleonic Wars – are hoping to gain positions of power and influence in the newly-established Regency.
At the beginning of the novel, Sebastian St. Cyr, Viscount Devlin, returns from fighting a duel to discover that he has become a suspect in a murder investigation. A beautiful young actress, Rachel York, has been found dead on the steps of a church altar and evidence found at the scene has implicated Sebastian. Determined to clear his name, Sebastian decides to investigate the murder himself. As he delves deeper into the circumstances surrounding Rachel’s death, more and more people are drawn into the mystery, including a French spy, an Italian artist and a London street urchin, as well as some of the country’s top politicians and even members of Sebastian’s own family.
I’m pleased to say that I enjoyed What Angels Fear enough to want to read the next book in the series. I didn’t love it, but I found it very entertaining with a good mixture of mystery, political intrigue and romance (Sebastian’s love interest in this book is an actress whose stage name is Kat Boleyn). Harris captures the atmosphere of the Regency period very well, although I occasionally came across a choice of word that didn’t feel quite right. It was probably a mistake to read this book immediately after finishing April Lady as there are few authors who bring the Regency to life as convincingly as Georgette Heyer!
I haven’t really warmed to Sebastian yet, but I’m hoping that will eventually happen if I continue with the series. He is certainly an intriguing character: Harris gives him an interesting past, with five years spent in the army, some family secrets which are only hinted at in this book, and some unusual abilities (he has quick reflexes and very acute eyesight and hearing, which according to the author’s note are signs of Bithil Syndrome, although I couldn’t seem to find out whether this is a real condition or not). Because so many things are left unresolved at the end of this first novel, I’m sure there’s still a lot more to learn about Sebastian and I’m curious to see how his character develops.
What Angels Fear was a good start not only to my reading for the RIP challenge, but also to a new series. Now I’m looking forward to the second Sebastian St. Cyr novel, When Gods Die.