Sunday, November 21, 2010

The Orchid Affair-Lauren Willig

The Orchid Affair
Lauren Willig
Dutton, Jan 20 2011, $25.95
ISBN 9780525951995

In 1804 governess Laura Grey leaves England after ten years employed there to come home to Paris to spy on Napoleon. She enrolled at the Selwick Spy School where Laura was sort of trained in espionage under the code name Silver Orchid. In France, undercover as Laure Griscogne she becomes governess to widower Andre Jaouen's two children (nine years old Gabrielle and five years old Pierre-Andre). However, her mission is to use her new position to learn what her employer, the assistant Prefect to the Minister of Police, knows.

The plot deploys perfectly in spite of Laure’s lack of experience and limited training; in fact her being a tyro spy helps her conceal her probing. Meanwhile Griscognl and his rival Gaston Delaroche investigate the latest alleged Royalist plot to dispose of Napoleon. However, whereas Griscognl cares about the French, Delaroche cares about himself so he uses this inquiry to destroy his enemy. This leads to Laure and the Jaouen family fleeing for their lives across France; the adults pose as mom and dad and the Pink Carnation assists them while Delaroche seizes the opportunity.

The eighth Pink Carnation historical thriller (see The Betrayal of the Blood Lily) is a great tale filled with action from the moment Laure comes home and never slows down until the final altercation. Fast-paced with a strong cast (including the ambitious villain) who bring to life France in 1804 and a sort of historiographical perspective as each of the adults and others look back with different views from fondness to disdain to the 1789 Revolution.

Harriet Klausner