Period mystery--heavy on the period (Napoleon's Paris), light on the mystery. Madame de Besancourt, courtesan supreme, is found strangled, and Chief Inspector Blanc must go inquiring from lover to lover--there are at least five highly-placed swains--to establish alibis and probe motives. (Was Madame also a blackmailer?) Along the way, he runs into Talleyrand and Jacques Louis David (""I hope you will pardon my not shaking hands. Mine, as you see, are covered with paint""), and he exchanges cultural chatter with his actress mistress (""You believe that the golden age of French music is over, don't you?""). Unfortunately, moody Blanc isn't much of a detective: his breakthrough comes when Madame's servant tells all--about an assassin hired by a ""masked man."" And the denouement, which worked fine in Murder on the Orient Express, seems like a cop-out here. Pleasantly polished, but really just pasty costume jewelry without a glimmer of a diamond-sharp edge.