An unlikely sleuth is drawn into another murder mystery in turn-of-the-century France.
On June 24, 1897, Maura and Angela, a pair of teenagers, help a Russian named Pyotr Ivanovich Balenov transport a corpse on a cart to a river just outside Paris, where they dump it. Now far away, hardworking teacher Clarie Martin rushes home after a tiring day, her only wish to spend time with her children and beloved husband, Bernard. But Francesca, an Italian charwoman at her school, buttonholes Clarie with a colorful and emotional tale about Francesca's daughter Angela, who's been "taken away" by an unsavory man who's promised to marry her. Can Clarie help? At home, Bernard greets her with the news that he has finally secured a salaried job, and the couple goes out to celebrate for the first time since moving to Paris. But the plight of the "Italian girls" continues to bother Clarie, who's lost a child and feels Francesca's anguish. As the girls toil away in a shirtwaist factory, the sudden disappearance of Pyotr and a suspicious bombing worry Angela and Maura immensely, and the arrival of a police inspector with questions about Barbereau, the dead man on the cart, push them to the brink. When Clarie receives a letter notifying her that Francesca won't be reporting for work since Angela has been killed, she knows what she must do.
Pope's third mystery featuring Clarie (The Blood of Lorraine, 2010, etc.) expertly doles out pieces of its complex plot, a picaresque puzzle with satisfying period flavor.