The Sebastian St Cyr novels are Regency-era murder mysteries with a healthy dollop of romance and fabulous attention to things like costume, atmosphere and contemporary societal gossip which make them not only thrilling, entertaining and so much fun but slightly addictive. They are the perfect Sunday-morning-no-I’m-not-getting-out-of-bed readers. Fluff your pillows, fill the teapot, adorn the plate with mint slices and away you go.
The author describes her murder-solving viscount as ‘Mr Darcy with a James Bond edge’ and it’s kinda perfect. Sebastian (the right kind of name for someone to be obsessed with, don’t you think?) is a handsome, wealthy aristocrat with a strong sense of right, an attention to dress and wild cat-like eyes, who can fire a pistol and ride a horse while hunting down a maniacal killer through the outskirts of mad King George’s London… truly, what else does a girl need? Why don’t we throw in that he’s a returned soldier from the Napoleonic wars who is still haunted by his experiences, that he is keenly respectful of women, has virtually adopted a street urchin (who sometimes helps him in his investigations by scouting out the seedier sides of the great metropole) and drives the ‘ton’ bonkers by his refusal to conform to their prejudiced elitist ways. And he spends a reasonable amount of time lazing around his lover’s bedroom in the nude (or at least shirt off) pre- or post- love-making. Anyone breathing a tad heavier yet…?
It’s funny, because I’d never think of myself as a ‘romance’ reader but when it pops up in a novel as a sub-plot I’m all for it and in fact occasionally wish for more of it. Not that the St Cyr novels are romance novels – solving the murders is the key – I guess I just find them so indulgent and enjoyable that perhaps for me, they are my Mills n Boon. And I don’t mean this in any disrespectful way!
The author, CS Harris, is an accomplished writer of a few genres and one of them is romances (check out her great blog here) so there’s definitely an undertone of passion and its accoutrements in these novels.
In this third adventure – Why Mermaids Sing (which never fails to remind me of one of Val McDermid’s Tony Hill novels – who would have thought mermaids had so much to do with sinister murdering?) – the endearing magistrate Sir Henry Lovejoy asks Sebastian to help him solve the murders of a growing number of young men with no seeming connection apart from being found horrifyingly mutilated and in public places. What links these poor fellows? Is it simply random? Or could it be something to do with their fathers and a devastating voyage from the subcontinent? Could in fact one of society’s taboos have been broken for the sake of survival? Or could one of Sebastian’s former military colleagues be indulging his bloodthirsty urges back in the Motherland?
I just love these books and am fighting the urge to order the fourth one while it is still in hardback (in these GFC times one should try to limit one’s discretionary spending). They are fun, thrilling, interesting and entertaining reading. They would be absolutely perfect for a BBC mini-series … though I’m yet to work out who should play our hero. I’ve passed on the fever to my mother and have recently thrust them in the hands of a dear friend, and now I want to reach out of this little screen and pop them in your lap. It’s winter here in the southern hemisphere, after all, so plump up that pillow, butter a crumpet, slip on your bed socks and hunker down for a fine time.
* Disclosure: Pile o’ Books worked on the first and second Sebastian St Cyr novels.