The Cavalier of the Apocalypse
Minotaur, Jul 21 009, $24.99
In 1786 Paris Aristide Ravel struggles to earn a living from writing commentaries that criticize the church as corrupt and depraved, and King Louis XVI as feeble. Ravel also warns those in power that a great internal Revolution similar to that across the ocean will occur with much blood flowing.
Ravel finds a murdered corpse wearing a fancy waistcoat that does not conceal the symbols etched on the body; markings of the Masons. His former neighbor when he could afford to eat cake, police inspector Brasseur, names Ravel as his prime suspect, but hires him to solve the homicide just in case someone else did it; if the writer fails, he will arrest him for the crime. Knowing he will be a guest of the Bastille and probably Madame Guillotine, Ravel investigates. Although the body is stolen from the morgue, Ravel finds out who is reported missing and concludes only the Marquis de Beaupreau or Monsieur Lambert Saint-Landry could have owned the waistcoat. Both are Masons. His inquiry leads to revelations about his father that shake him. Ravel keeps digging into the Masonic clues that seem to imply a conspiracy to remove Louis XVI from the throne and a scandal focused on Queen Antoinette and a missing necklace. All this occurs while the sleuth is fascinated by Lambert’s spirited sister Sophie.
The police procedural investigation is well written and fun to follow, but what refreshes this brisk historical mystery is the insightful look at the era just before the revolution; as Susanne Alleyn vividly depicts a period of trouble boiling over which the King, his advisors, and the Church do not believe will ignite as the prevalent theory of most of the powerbrokers start from the axiom of “the divine right of the king” and cannot make the paradigm switch. Fans of French revolutionary War whodunits will relish this great prequel that occurs before Ravel’s previous starring roles (see the post Revolutionary GAME OF PATIENCE and A TREASURY OF REGRETS).