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Historical Mysteries

What Angels Fear, C.S. Harris, Signet, $6.99.

If you enjoyed the Pirates of the Carribean movies this is the book for you. It's not set in the Carribean, it's set in London, and it doesn't feature pirates, but the main character, Sebastian St. Cyr, is every bit as dashing as Johnny Depp. He even has a rare (but apparently factual) syndrome that allows him to see in the dark and hear exceptionally well. A Viscount and a veteran of the Napoleonic wars, Sebastian's existence in London is disrupted when the body of an actress is found ghoulishly mutilated on the steps of a church. Because of some evidence found on the body, he's the main suspect, and the only way out is for him to assume a disguise and try and solve the crime himself.

The book is rife with sword fights, duels, burning warehouses, street urchins, kindly doctors who pay off body snatchers, and a lost love, and it's a great deal of fun. Set in 1811 London, if it's occasionally anachronistic, the author has also gone to great lengths to sketch in the complex historical background - the mad king George is being politically usurped by his son, the Prince of Wales (hence the term "regency"). Eventually the political background becomes just that - a background - as the story takes on a decidedly familial turn. Harris has also done a terrific job of setting this up as a series; Sebastian even takes on a street urchin sidekick and has a forbidden love in the background of his own life. While I imagine gentleman like Sebastian, Viscount Devlin, didn't freely throw around the word "shit", like Pirates of the Carribean, it's all part of the fun. So give up a couple of brain cells and settle in for an enjoyable ride.

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