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Book Author: C. S. Harris

WHEN FALCONS FALL by C. S. Harris: Book Review

It’s 1813 in England.  In the seemingly quiet countryside of Ayleswick-on-Teme, Shropshire, villagers are talking about the death of a young woman who had arrived there only a week earlier.

Sebastian St. Cyr, Viscount Devlin, has traveled to the village for two reasons.  The first is to honor a request by a young friend, Jamie Knox.  Shortly before he died Jamie asked Sebastian to return a family heirloom to his grandmother, Heddie, and so the viscount goes to Ayleswick-on-Teme to do so.

Before Sebastian can visit the grandmother he’s approached by young Archie Rawlins, who has become the town’s justice of the peace upon the recent death of his father.  After viewing the body of the young woman, known to the townspeople as Emma Chance,  Archie asks Sebastian for help.  Archie isn’t certain that her death is the suicide it appears to be.  It was a criminal offense to kill one’s self in nineteenth-century England; the body of a suicide was buried at a crossroads, without church rites and with a stake through its heart.  And the justice of the peace, although having known the woman for only a few days, would like to avoid that ending for her.

Emma Chance had arrived in the village with only a female servant and the equipment that an artist would carry.  She was allegedly traveling through the countryside to sketch, although that was considered a strange and rather inappropriate thing for a young widow, as she presented herself, to do.  She didn’t appear to have any friends or family in the town but had been asking everyone she met about their family histories.

All of this resonates strongly with Sebastian, as this is the second reason for his visit to the village.  He too is on a quest.  Brought up to believe that he was the third son of Alistair St. Cyr, Earl of Hendon, two years earlier he had discovered that he was the son of his mother and one of her lovers.  His father had known this, but when Sebastian’s two older, legitimate, brothers died, the earl named his illegitimate son his heir.

When Sebastian met young Jamie Knox some time before this book opens, he was struck by their uncanny resemblance to each other; it was remarkable enough so that they might have been brothers.  Thus, upon Jamie’s death Sebastian eagerly seized the opportunity to pay his respects to Heddie Knox, to ask her questions and possibly find out more about his paternal family.

When Falcons Fall begins with one death but soon encompasses many more.  There’s a history in this town of young women meeting unusual ends, usually seen as suicides, that strikes Sebastian and his wife Hero as too frequent to be normal.  And then there are the strange deaths of the two most powerful men in Ayleswick-on-Teme, one having died when his manor home was engulfed in fire, the other in a riding accident.  And no one in the village seems to be particularly upset about either death.

Although When Falcons Fall is the eleventh book in the series, there is enough background given to make the plot easily understandable.  All the characters are vibrant and realistic, and the double searches of Emma Chance and Sebastian St. Cyr make for a gripping plot.

You can read more about C. S. Harris at this web site.

Check out the complete Marilyn’s Mystery Reads at her web site.