A search for a missing woman reveals a shocking pattern of depravity and murder.
By the spring of 1788, failed crops and indescribable poverty have put France in an appalling state. Against this background, Anne Cartier searches for Lucie Gigot, a young tenant missing from the estate of Marie, the Comtesse de Beaumont. Marie is the aunt of Anne’s husband Colonel Paul de Saint-Martin, provost of the Royal Highway patrol, who often uses Anne’s talents to help solve his cases. With the aid of several friends, Anne discovers that Lucy was last seen in the company of Denis Grimaud, valet to the Marquis de Bresse, a young man whose infamous reputation rivals that of the Marquis de Sade. When investigations reveal more missing country girls who had come to Paris for work and ended up selling themselves, Anne and her husband’s assistant Georges travel the mean streets interviewing procurers and prostitutes and realize that the missing girls may all have been killed by the Marquis. When he is found murdered in his underground torture chamber, it’s up to Anne, Paul and Georges to sift the evidence and discover which of the many people forced by circumstances to debase themselves killed the degenerate Bresse.
O’Brien’s trademark impeccable historical detail (Lethal Beauty, 2005, etc.) shines all the more brightly in this unusually uncomplicated mystery—one of his best efforts.