When Gods Die: a Sebastian St. Cyr mystery by C. S. Harris
The title is evocative, but it’s been giving me trouble: I keep hearing Prince singing it.
It is 1811, and the Prince Regent is throwing a party when he heads off to a side room to what he thinks is an assignation with a woman. Alas, the woman, the much younger wife of an elderly nobleman is in no mood to dally with his Highness; mostly because she’s dead. A crowd stumbles into the room just in time to catch the Prince with the woman in his arms, a dagger between her shoulderblades. The Prince is probably innocent, but it doesn’t look good, and the story is starting to spread among the commoners. The Prince’s cousin, Lord Jarvis, who holds no title but does most of the thinking for the royal family, decides to call in one man he knows can clear the whole matter up, if it can be done at all: Sebastian St. Cyr, Viscount Devlin, who only recently cleared himself of a murder charge (here).
St. Cyr is a difficult man to control, though. He soon determines that the killing did not take place at the party, but several hours before. But he’s not willing to put the Prince off the suspect list just because Jarvis wants him to. Instead, he focuses on actually getting justice for the dead woman. And, on the personal side, he tries to find out where the necklace she was wearing at her death came from, since he’s seen it before: on the neck of his mother the day she set out to sea on a yacht that was reported lost with all hands. Where did the dead woman get it? And, given the necklace’s historical connection to the House of Stuart, could there be an attack against the House of Hanover involved? Or is the Prince as mad as his father?
I’m enjoying this series so far. Harris is managing to balance historical accuracy with a concern for the sensibilities of the modern audience, mostly by giving us St. Cyr as an outsider, in polite society but not of it. The mystery gets dark at times, but she so far doesn’t seem to feel the need to mislead the audience. I’ve also learned a lot about the Regency period that I hadn’t known before (I had no idea that the Prince was Regent for his own Father, for instance). I’m looking forward to the next book.