Anti-Semitism further clouds an already overheated murder case.
In the province of Lorraine, young judge Bernard Martin reluctantly agrees to take over a case assigned to his colleague David Singer. An unidentified Jew stands accused of killing and mutilating a Christian baby. The controversial Dreyfus case has brought virulent anti-Semitism to the forefront in 1894 France. Having only recently moved from Provence to Nancy with his pregnant wife Clarie, Martin is loath to seem uncooperative so early in his tenure. He uses all his courtroom skills in questioning Geneviève Philipon, wet nurse of the murdered child Marc-Antoine, and quickly gets her to recant her implausible story and confess her involvement as an accomplice. She admits that, while he was unattended, the curious baby swallowed a coal. His parents, Pierre and Antoinette Thomas, mutilated the baby and made his death look like a ritual murder. When Martin brings the couple in, they staunchly protest their innocence, and public outrage against the judiciary intensifies. But Martin stands firm in his conviction of their guilt. Shortly after the conditional release of Pierre and Antoinette, Victor Ullmann, the Jewish owner of the mill where Pierre works, is found murdered, and suspicion falls squarely upon Pierre, who seems to have vanished.
Bernard’s second case (Cézanne’s Quarry, 2008) gracefully transports the reader to its liveried era and broadens the story’s appeal with characters of substance and depth.