Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Book review(s): The Sebastian St. Cyr Mysteries

That's right, Wednesday summer book reviews are back. To re-kick off this tradition, I'm reviewing not one but nine books in a single blog post: the Sebastian St. Cyr Mysteries by C.S. Harris.

I've got kind of a thing for the Regency period. I've also got kind of a thing for murder mysteries, though I haven't much indulged the taste. Obviously I'm not the only one, or they probably wouldn't have put the two genres together.

In book 1 of the series, What Angels Fear, Sebastian, Viscount Devlin, is accused of murder. Things get tangled up quickly enough that he finds himself on the run, trying to find the real culprit to prove his innocence. By book 9, Why Kings Confess, Sebastian is regularly being turned to for help by others who know they won't get justice from the government of George, the Prince Regent.

These aren't Regency romances like Jane Austen or any of the imitators that are popular nowadays. They're not about, as Carol Howard puts it in the introduction to my copy of Pride and Prejudice, "the formal civility, the carefully prescribed manners... an English landscape devoid of industrial turmoil and the brisk pace of modern technology."

Basically, they're like an episode of NCIS in Regency England. As Harris puts it on her website, "Think Mr. Darcy with a James Bond edge."

And I love it.

Harris is an actual Regency scholar, so it's not just thrill dropped in a historical setting. Social customs are attended to (and occasionally disregarded by the maverick main character), real historical figures make well-researched appearances, and the intrigue which drives the mysteries are pulled from the war with France, the wide gap between London's elite and London's poor, and the corrupt leaders of the period.

I've compared the books to a cop show (and they do have all the chases, violence, and sex those entail), but Sebastian grows from book to book, slowly developing the beliefs that have been sleeping within him for years. For me, this process is shown more effectively than in many TV shows.

The tenth book, Who Buries the Dead, is due out next March. I hope to get ahold of it then.

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