What Angels Fear by C. S. Harris

I discovered this title, series, and author in a list from a source I trust, but which I, unfortunately, cannot remember at present. I like mysteries and I like history, and I have enjoyed historical mysteries in the past. I was disappointed in this book, for reasons I will explain. Because I tend to overdo, I had ordered the first three books in the series and I am currently reading the second in the series. I wanted to give it a chance; it’s not always good to judge by a debut novel. I wouldn’t want anyone to judge my abilities by my first novel – not that there is or ever will be such an animal. Anyway, when I finish that book, I’ll report.

As to this book –

In Regency England, Sebastian St. Cyr, a gallant viscount with PTSD, investigates a murder in order to clear his name of the woman’s rape and murder, all without a forensic lab, DNA, or a cell phone.

Sebastian is a marvel with preternatural powers of sight and hearing, which the author explains in her Author’s Note. Sebastian has Bithil Syndrome. Like Superman, I guess.

Although the book starts off promisingly with the gruesome near-decapitation and rape of a lovely actress, the story gets blogged down. St. Cyr interviews each of his suspects again and again. The third or fourth time he goes back to the Italian painter, I just wanted to say, “Enough already!”

Harris, like so many contemporary authors, needs a good editor with a supply of red pens. (I don’t actually know whether editors use pens or pencils or what color they are. Sorry.)

Harris has a PhD in European history. OK, but I have a PhD in children’s literature and I teach English literature. I’ve read enough Jane Austen to know that Harris’s characters are not speaking Regency diction. I am pretty sure that folks didn’t say that someone got a “kick” out of doing something.

There are historical inaccuracies. The police, for example. Yes, there were men called the Bow Street Runners. But, prior to 1839, the responsibility for policing in the City was divided between day and night, primarily under two Sheriffs. The Bow Street Runners represented a formalization and regularization of existing policing methods. There was a formal attachment to the Bow Street magistrates’ office, and they were paid by the magistrate with funds from central government. They, however, did not patrol but served writs and arrested offenders on the authority of the magistrates, traveling nationwide to apprehend criminals.

I suppose that Harris felt it necessary to simplify and modernize history, language, and culture. Being the picky reader that I am, though, it bothered me; that and the repetition of plot.

I’m going to finish the second book and even venture into the third. I suppose if I want accuracy I need to stick to the originals, like Poe, Holmes, and real-crime nonfiction. Some very enlightening book are Duel with the Devil, The Beautiful Cigar Girl, and The Maul and The Pear Tree.


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