Tuesday, November 07, 2006

When Gods Die - C. S. Harris



When Gods Die
A Sebastian St. Cyr Mystery
C. S. Harris
New American Library

Mystery – Historical

In June of 1811, George, Prince Regent, is holding a series of musical evenings at the Pavilion in Brighton. During one such evening, he enters to find a young woman reclining on a couch, apparently waiting for him. Then, as happens often, George (Prinny) seems to black out; when he comes to, it’s clear that the young woman is dead. Now Prinny is in a spot. To be caught in a compromising position with a young woman is one thing; to be caught in the same circumstances with a young woman who is not only the wife of a Marquis, but also dead, will be a great scandal. When a guest opens the door to the room, all is revealed. The local magistrate and the royal physicians quickly declare that the woman, Guinevere Anglessey, committed suicide. An interesting trick, considering the jeweled dagger protruding from her back.

Lord Jarvis, distant cousin of Prinny and widely acknowledged brains behind the monarchy, sends for Sebastian St. Cyr, Viscount Devlin. Jarvis wants someone intelligent to look into the matter, and, having weathered a similar investigation recently, not to mention acquitting himself well during battle, he feels that Sebastian is just the man for the job. It soon becomes obvious that this death is more than suspicious. First, Guinevere was a woman of impeccable reputation; not one to cuckold her much-older husband. In addition, it was well known that she was newly with child. Her body was far too cold for her to have died that evening. And there was a conspicuous lack of blood around the dagger wound. Was she killed by someone looking to discredit Prinny? Or by her husband’s nephew, in order to eliminate an heir and secure his inheritance? Or is there even more to the case than meets the eye?

Sebastian is a great character. He’s a member of the ton, which means he can move about in Society with ease. But he’s equally at ease in the slums and back alleys, talking to informants. His experience in war and at home (in WHAT ANGELS FEAR, 11/05) has taught him the harsh realities of life, making him very realistic. His intelligence and sense of justice make him an intriguing character. The author brings the world of Regency England to vivid life, through description, dialogue, and attitude. The mystery to be solved looks deceptively simple on the surface, but takes the readers through all strata of society before arriving at the solution. Highly recommended.

Rating: 9 ½
November 2006
ISBN# 0-451-21968-6 (hardcover)

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