When Falcons Fall (Sebastian St. Cyr)
by C.S. Harris
Cover Artist: Gene Mollica
Review by Mel Jacob
Berkley Paperback ISBN/ITEM#: 9780451471178
Date: 07 March 2017 List Price $15.00 Amazon US / Amazon UK
[NOTE: This review originally ran in our March 2016 issue of Gumshoe Review.]
Politics, murder, and local history combine in a strong brew that leads to the murder of innocent and guilty alike in the latest Sebastian St. Cyr mystery from C.S. Harris. When Falcons Fall, set in 1810 Shropshire, follows a murder investigation where the past writes the future.
Sebastian St. Cyr, Viscount Devlin, and his wife Hero are visiting the town of Ayleswick to deliver a gift from a deceased friend to the young man's mother when murder interrupts. A local boy discovers the body of young woman whom the town constable insists committed suicide. The new justice of the peace, Squire Archie Rawlins, differs and seeks the help of Sebastian St. Cyr.
St. Cyr takes pity on the young squire and agrees to help. He quickly recognizes the murder has been disguised to appear a suicide. The motive is unclear, but the woman's sketchbook is missing. Known as Emma Chance, a young widow, she is an artist of some skill. Initial searches turn up little.
A second aspect to the novel is St. Cyr's search for his real father. The young man who gave him the gift was almost St. Cyr's double and may have been killed by a person planning to kill St. Cyr. Another local man also has yellow eyes like St. Cyr.
Lucien Bonaparte, younger brother of Napoleon, is staying in the area, a guest of the British government. Speculation as to his loyalty fuels rumors, but no proof of contact with his brother exists although Lucien does write to his mother. His presence suggests perhaps Mrs. Chance might be a spy.
Once St. Cyr delves into the local community, other suspects soon surface including a young man regarded as mentally deficient.
An accomplished writer, Harris uses the unsettled times of looming war combined with the past history of land clearances and enclosures that forced many villagers to migrate, join the military, or rebel. In Ayleswick, one man was hanged and others transported to Australia. Hatred remained.
To date, ten St. Cyr mysteries have been published. For those liking mysteries with a historical context, the series provides a veritable feast.