When Falcons Fall by C. S. Harris

When Falcons Fall: A Sebastian St. Cyr Mystery | Author: C. S. Harris | Rating: 7/11 |

Release Date: March 1, 2016

The timeless success of Sherlock Holmes and his ilk has inspired a voracious appetite in the literary world for historical mystery and crime stories. One author who has stepped up to meet this demand is C. S. Harris. This March, she reveals her latest offering in the genre by way of the eleventh installment in her popular Sebastian St. Cyr series: When Falcons Fall.

When Sebastian St. Cyr, Viscount Devlin, journeys to the British village of Ayleswick-on-Teme with his wife, Hero, and their infant son, their arrival coincides with the death of a mysterious woman named Emma Chance. The inexperienced local magistrate turns to Sebastian for help and they quickly realize that Emma’s apparent suicide is actually a case of cold-blooded murder. As the body count begins to rise and the mystery surrounding Emma Chance deepens, Sebastian is forced to set aside his personal reasons for visiting Ayleswick in order to bring a murderer to justice. His quest for answers leads him to uncover a series of devastating secrets about the village’s sordid past, some of which strike closer to home for Sebastian than he would like to admit.

As is the case with many mystery sagas, When Falcons Fall can either be read independently or as part of the series.  Newcomers do not have to worry about catching up before beginning this latest installment, while long-time St. Cyr fans can look forward to learning more about the origins of the title lord-turned-sleuth. An historical mystery novel is still a mystery novel and the plot is predictably formulaic. Fans of the genre know what to expect, and they will not find themselves either disappointed or surprised. What sets this book apart from similar books, however, is the author’s impressively meticulous research. Harris is very obviously well-versed in her subject matter, and her prose showcases her extensive knowledge of Georgian politics, historical fashion, architecture, legal reform, military history, British aristocracy and criminal law. This attention to detail vividly brings Ayleswick to life, so much so that the village itself often has more depth and personality than the book’s characters do. As Sebastian and his assistants cross, re-cross and even re-re-cross Ayleswick’s environs in their search for clues, the plot becomes sluggish and unnecessarily repetitive.  However, the mystery surrounding Emma’s death eventually reveals a host of romantic scandals, political intrigues, and deadly local grievances – some of which bleed into the untold secrets of Sebastian’s own origins – which prove that there is more to Ayleswick than meets the eye. Harris is able to bring the innumerable threads of her tale together in a surprising and satisfying finale which solves the mystery at its heart, while also leaving enough open-ended questions about Sebastian himself to ensure the series’ continuation.

Ultimately, When Falcons Fall is both a vivid foray into Georgian England and a tastefully macabre tale of murder and intrigue. The best mystery novels are those which feel like they could actually have happened, and Harris’ novel does an admirable job at reaching this standard. Fans will have to wait for another volume before they have all the answers, but When Falcons Fall is undoubtedly an intriguing and exciting installment in the St. Cyr saga.