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101 of 108 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Well written and believable historical mystery
"What Angels Fear" begins the Sebastian St. Cyr mysteries, of which there are currently two. C.S. Harris starts the story off quickly with the brutal rape and murder of a young actress, Rachel York. The only evidence found at the crime scene seems to implicate Sebastian, and an order is issued for his immediate arrest.

The problem, of course, is that Sebastian...
Published on February 9, 2007 by Jonathan Appleseed

versus
61 of 72 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Average historical murder mystery with quite a few inaccuracies
I found much of the writing of this book to be stilted and dry. It was also obvious this was Ms. Harris' first book as it didn't flow very well. I also found the whole idea of a police force run like modern day British police to be a bit of a laugh. As another reviewer mentioned, the police didn't act like this in England for at least another 50 years. Believe me, I'm...
Published on December 22, 2008 by Rachel Reeves


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101 of 108 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Well written and believable historical mystery, February 9, 2007
This review is from: What Angels Fear: A Sebastian St. Cyr Mystery, Book 1 (Mass Market Paperback)
"What Angels Fear" begins the Sebastian St. Cyr mysteries, of which there are currently two. C.S. Harris starts the story off quickly with the brutal rape and murder of a young actress, Rachel York. The only evidence found at the crime scene seems to implicate Sebastian, and an order is issued for his immediate arrest.

The problem, of course, is that Sebastian didn't commit the murder, and slips away from the arresting constables to try to solve the murder on his own. He puts himself into Rachel's shoes and starts to learn as much as he possibly can about her life with the hope that this knowledge will bring him closer to the real killer.

About three chapters into the novel I had the sense that I was reading a quasi-romance story. Small things tipped me off: lingering on a description of a physical characteristic, an attribute given to a character that pushes the boundaries of suspension of disbelief, that sort of thing. I kept reading, the sense grew stronger, so I flipped to the back of the book to see if there was information about the author. There was...and she had also written award winning historical romances!

Not sure how the rest of the book would turn out, I continued reading, and found that I wasn't much bothered by the elements of the story that were slightly dramatic and would have lent themselves better to romance than a mystery.

The characters are all very well drawn and believable, and the Georgian feel of the novel is also well drawn and believable.

3.5, rounded up to 4.
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50 of 51 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars a wonderfully engrossing read, November 25, 2005
By 
tregatt (Portland, Oregon) - See all my reviews
I am especially partial to historical mysteries set in England; and my interest was piqued when I noticed C. S. Harris' "What Angels Fear" on the bookstore shelves. But I was also a little wary -- after all I had heard nothing about this book -- no advance praise or early review blurbs in magazines/web sites heralding the book's upcoming publication. Fortunately, because I work at a bookstore, I was able to borrow the book, which turned out to be a really good thing 'else I'd have missed one of the most thrilling reads of the year. What an absolutely riveting and breathtaking read "What Angels Fear" proved to be!

In 1811, George III is sinking deeper and deeper into the madness, as his politicians question the wisdom of carrying on England's war with France, as well as whether or not they should support the move to make the profligate Prince of Wales, Regent of England. But for the newly returned ex-soldier, Sebastian St. Cyr, Viscount Devlin, and heir to the powerful Earl of Hendon, the all important question is how he's going to survive an upcoming duel of honour without getting killed or killing his opponent. Having survived that ordeal however, the last thing Sebastian expected later that morning was to have a chief magistrate and a couple of constables at his doorstep, ready to arrest him for the brutal rape and murder of a young actress, Rachel York. Knowing full well that he had no hand in the young woman's murder and realising that the only way for him to clear his name is if he were to investigate the murder himself, Sebastian escapes from the constables and disappears into the bowels of London's poverty stricken streets. There, using his training as an intelligence officer, and the help of a few unorthodox allies, Sebastian begins his hunt for Rachel's killer, questioning her old friends and examining her past, sure that the key to her murder lies in her past, while evading the authorities. The last thing he expected though, was to discover that members of his own family had dealings with the late Miss York. Could one of them have murdered the actress and planted the evidence against him? As the days pass and as the constables begin to get uncomfortably close to arresting him, Sebastian begins to fear that he may never clear his name or discover the identity of the sadist who murdered Rachel York...

I can only say that I'm looking forward to the next installment in this series (if there is one, that is) -- it could go in several different directions, but I'm hoping that the author will keep Sebastian in England no matter what. I thoroughly enjoyed "What Angels Fear" and would heartily recommend it to anyone who enjoys historical mystery novels that possess a clever and engrossing plot that is full of interesting and vivid period details, and characters that engage. Also, the almost relentless pacing lent an air of immediacy and tension to novel, and gave it that edge-of-your-seat feeling and made the book practically unputdownable. "What Angels Fear" brought to mind historical novels by authors such as Bernard Cornwell and Alexander Dumas; I was completely hooked from the very first page, and found the book hard to put down. All in all, an excellent read.
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61 of 72 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Average historical murder mystery with quite a few inaccuracies, December 22, 2008
This review is from: What Angels Fear: A Sebastian St. Cyr Mystery, Book 1 (Mass Market Paperback)
I found much of the writing of this book to be stilted and dry. It was also obvious this was Ms. Harris' first book as it didn't flow very well. I also found the whole idea of a police force run like modern day British police to be a bit of a laugh. As another reviewer mentioned, the police didn't act like this in England for at least another 50 years. Believe me, I'm British, and grew up with stories of Robert Peel (the founder of the British Bobbies) and the like. Sebastian also needs to learn some new language as "Bloody Hell" was said at least 30 times during the book and, in many cases, in a way a true Englishman wouldn't say.

Having said this though, I did give Ms. Harris' second book a try and it was much better. Flows more, more natural speech patterns and more interesting. I'll definitely buy her third book as it looks like a fun read.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Welcome Debut of a New Author and Hero, March 14, 2008
By 
MJS "Constant Reader" (New York, United States) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: What Angels Fear: A Sebastian St. Cyr Mystery, Book 1 (Mass Market Paperback)
Before I get to why you should read this book let me just say that if you enjoy literate historical mysteries of any era you'll want to read this book. It is well-written, perfectly paced, populated by interesting characters and has a murder mystery that is actually a mystery.

C. S. Harris does a fine job of conveying period detail and developing her characters while telling a compelling story. Her hero, Sebastian St. Cyr, will remind readers of Kate Ross's Julian Kestrel with his wit, filmy past and talent for solving murders. This is high praise from me, I love Kate Ross's books. But I'm even more reminded of Dorothy Dunnett's Francis Crawford. Sebastian St. Cyr's disrepute, haunted past, and latent idealism cloaked in cynicism could give Crawford of Lymond a run for his money in the troubled hero sweepstakes.

St. Cyr finds himself accused of one gruesome murder and the main suspect in an attempted murder. Not willing to risk his life to a justice system that is more intent on quieting the matter than solving the crime, he escapes to investigate the murder himself. His investigation takes him into the world of French spies, Jacobins and scandal. The secondary characters are interesting and Harris doesn't overdo the cockney dialect.(Written dialects and accents can really get on my nerves.)

The first chapter starts a bit slow but the actions picks up considerably in the second chapter. After that the pages fly by. This is a great, fun read. The perfect escape after a hard day of work. Here's hoping that C. S. Harris has many more Sebastian St. Cyr mysteries to bring us.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars If blood & gore don't bother you..., September 14, 2013
By 
This review is from: What Angels Fear: A Sebastian St. Cyr Mystery, Book 1 (Mass Market Paperback)
This book has it all: blood, gore, swords, knives, guns, sex, murder, mystery. Blood and gore make me cringe. I did a good bit of cringing while reading this book, especially during the descriptions of the murder scene. I considered stopping reading after the murder because I wasn't sure I could stomach the gore, but I figured that the bad part was over and the rest of the book would be more mystery and less blood, so I stuck with it. Unfortunately, the details of the murder were discussed again and again. I liked Sebastian St.Cyr just fine, but couldn't help but think he might be a little too perfect. The first mention of his super hearing and amber eyes had me thinking that the author was going the vampire route (thankfully she did not!) It seemed that the speech was too modern for the time period, but I'm no expert. The little street boy was a cute character, very lively, and I hope that Harris incorporates him in the rest of this series. The sex scenes were uncomfortable and felt "off" to me. The ending was pretty "Hollywood action movie". I've already begun another book in this series because other reviewers said the books get better and better, so obviously I liked this book enough to keep going.
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31 of 38 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars People Who Live In Glass Houses...., December 10, 2006
By 
J P. Rich "jprich1227" (Los Angeles, California United States) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: What Angels Fear: A Sebastian St. Cyr Mystery, Book 1 (Mass Market Paperback)
Reviewer Patricia E. Morehouse in entitled to her negative opinion (I do not happen to agree), but she should get her own facts straight before criticizing others for "inaccuracies," which caused this reader to take her adverse recommendations with a grain of salt (note also that Ms. Morehouse's only other review on Amazon is another incendiary attack, one-star for another British mystery; I would respect her views more if there was evidence that she actually liked a book!)

Morehouse writes in her review: "In 1811, I seriously doubt that it would have even been thought of to note the details of a murder. In England if someone was suspected of a crime the magistrate did get involved, but more to arrest the criminal, not solve the crime. The author also pushes his story along, forcing things to happen, that wouldn't likely take place. His writing is fine, he just tries too hard to move his story forward."

The first statement is flat wrong; murders were carefully investigated during that period, though not as commonly as later. (Indeed, the author, C.S. Harris has a Ph.D in European History, something Ms. Morehouse no doubt lacks.) And I laughed out loud at the second sentence (the subjective opinion to which Ms. Morehouse is entitled) because a quick perusal of the book would make it clear to anyone that the author is a woman.

The book is not great literature but a fun mystery, the first in a series set during a period about which no other mysteries are being written today. The other reviewer is correct about the errors in French (mistakes Ms. Morehouse apparently missed) and about the fact that they do not detract from the enjoyment of reading the book (unless the reader has a bad case of OCD).
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93 of 124 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars strong beginning, ruined by preachy pc politics stuck into regency times, December 16, 2007
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This review is from: What Angels Fear: A Sebastian St. Cyr Mystery, Book 1 (Mass Market Paperback)
This book started very strong, with a very romantic hero, and the fun element of a street urchin pickpocket as his sidekick.

There were several real weaknesses for me, however. I disliked the author sticking in liberal, anti-war, pro-appeasement speeches into the characters mouths, and this got worse as the book went along. For one thing, I'm reading a light romantic regency mystery like this for escape, not to have the author's politics stuck down my throat. Secondly, it doesn't fit the era of England during the Napoleonic wars. My father-in-law was British and my husband has loads of English cousins. The British are absolute hero-worshippers to this day of Wellington and Nelson (neither of whom are mentioned as background). Of all the bad history in this book ( the author's degree is on the french revolution, and her one history book on feminism in the french revolution), her showing England in 1811 without one patriotic character is absurd.

Next, her politically correct politics led to a portrayal of virtually every member of the British upper class as horrible - they were stupid, weak, venal, murderous, cold hearted, idiots or machiavellian monsters. the only good one was a radical daughter who worked with the poor and was a feminist. Oh, one more - a wife who is the victim of spousal abuse and cast out by her horrible father for marrying against his wishes. More preachiness disguised as characterizations. This detracted from my pleasure in the book. I like more variety and realism in characters, not political polemics thinly disguised.

Lastly, although our hero was wonderfully romantic, there was no good female love interest. the female character he's in love with was - no surprise - a poltical radical who hated Engand and the aristocracy and was betrayiing them to France. She is not a worthy heroine to me, because she hid evidence and lied to the hero about the murder even tho' doing so was threatening his life - she was putting her poltics above his very life. If this isn't betrayal and lack of love, I don't know what is. He wasn't even a threat to her side - she betrayed him just in case he might find out poltical stuff she didn't want him to know. To the author, this apparently was okay because being a radical is positive in itself. Yet the author wants us to ignore the personal betrayal and pretend that this character really loves the hero with true love. Some true love. Icky politics again, and a lack of feeling for real people.

The fun of the period setting and the plot moving along carried me along to some extent, but the last half of the book was truly unsatisfying. I'd give it a three stars except that the non-stop political messages determining every character started to really get on my nerves.
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14 of 17 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A great storyline ruined by too many details...., March 4, 2013
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I am a fan of this genre, and was led to try it from reviews of the Lady Emily Series (Tasha Alexander) and Lady Julia Grey Series (Deanna Raybourn). I loved the plot; I was intrigued by the story itself. But there are just way too many details. The love-making scenes create the feeling of reading a cheap romance and completely detract from the story. For me, it is enough to be led up to a certain point, without continuing on with too many sordid details. In contrast, the sexual encounters in the Lady Emily and Lady Julia Grey novels are handled with some sauciness, but yet the privacy that makes it satisfyingly perfect. "What Angels Fear" also gets bogged down many times throughout the story by the heavy-handed details. It is an art to be able to paint the perfect picture with just the right amount of description and trivia without trivializing it. This is the downfall of this St. Cyr novel. The repeated details of the grisly rape and murder which the novel is built around is an example. It finally just becomes a horror story. And that is too bad, because it's got a great premise. I finally got disgusted with it. What started out to be intriguing, with captivating characters and action, fizzled in disappointment.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Page-Turner!, April 17, 2007
By 
April (L.A., CA USA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: What Angels Fear: A Sebastian St. Cyr Mystery, Book 1 (Mass Market Paperback)
I happened upon the sequel in the Library and immediately ordered this first book from Amazon (they do make it SO easy!). I literally could not put it down.

The action/suspense/pacing is great. We have the murder in a quick prologue, and then the protagonist is introduced in the midst of a duel at dawn. Not long after he is accused of the murder and on the run. Duels and murder are sensationalist and the stuff of Romances, but the tone is gritty and realistic and if one reads murder mysteries, a certain suspension of disbelief on these accounts is natural. It's all handled believably enough. Even St. Cyr's seemingly supernatural senses are an odd inclusion, but nothing too over-the-top (and there's a note at the end explaining them).

The characters are well-drawn. The mystery is intriguing. A somewhat straight-forward killing of an actress whose life left her exposed to danger. But it includes a number of elements from blackmail to foundlings and the poor to high politics and back-room deals and profiting from war, that also reveal a nice slice of history.

The period details are seemless enough to my eye. I'm admittedly not a very critical reader, but I do have an MA in History (primarily English), and am a long-time reader of Historical Fiction, Historical Romances and Historical Mysteries (nothing like being predictable!).

I read so much that most books blur in my recollection, but this one stands out. (I'll have to test it on my sister to see what she thinks, however. She's much more critical than I am! But--) I heartily recommend this book! At least if you enjoy a fast-paced, suspenseful tale, a solid--and fairly intricate-- murder mystery with a strong historical setting (particularly this period, on the cusp of the Regency).
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Nice little package of a book-great title, great cover, good mystery with more books to follow, February 8, 2009
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This review is from: What Angels Fear: A Sebastian St. Cyr Mystery, Book 1 (Mass Market Paperback)
The working noble gentleman seems to be a fairly popular figure in both romance and mystery novels-which is completely understandable. A man who needs do nothing for money but has such a strong sense of justice that he dedicates his life to it anyway has obvious romantic appeal. So in spite of the fact that the hero in this new line of regency area mysteries by C.S. Harris is a little typical, he works out just fine.

Sebastian St. Cyr is a man haunted by the Napoleonic wars. Since his return under shadowy circumstances to London he has been busy fighting duels and supposedly stealing other men's wives. So no one is really shocked when the police accuse him of the rape and murder of a young actress named Rachel York found in a church. But Sebastian didn't do it.

Refusing to flee the country St. Cyr instead focuses on clearing his name. Though he hates to do it Sebastian ends up turning to his former lover Kat Boleyn, also an actress. With her help he learns of Rachel's shady doings and how her death has so much to do with what political party has power over England.

This is a good little mystery. I had a lot of trouble focusing on it at first but that fault wasn't with the book. Harris has a very appealing, descriptive third person voice and the short chapters and jumped around view point serve to gradually build a suspense that has the reader guessing. Add in the very cool title of this book and the beautiful cover art and you have a very nice little package.

While I didn't love this book I did enjoy and I'm on to read the second book. Maybe if I pay a little more attention this time I'll like it better.

Four stars.
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What Angels Fear: A Sebastian St. Cyr Mystery, Book 1
What Angels Fear: A Sebastian St. Cyr Mystery, Book 1 by C. S. Harris (Mass Market Paperback - October 3, 2006)
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