A sinister society provides a point of entry for sleuthing Parisian bookseller Victor Legris to solve a baffling series of murders.
On the first Sunday in January 1894, as a violent storm wracks the Normandy coast, ship's captain Corentin Jourdan rescues a young woman from the icy water. After neighbors whisk her off to safety, Jourdan looks into her bag and is annoyed when he realizes that its contents compel him to travel to Paris. Once there, he awkwardly searches in the Tenderloin District for certain people whose names appear in a notebook from the girl's bag. Not far away, tippling vagrant Martin Lorson witnesses a murder: A man in a felt hat strangles a woman to death. Martin finds, near the body of the opulently dressed victim, an unusual black pendant that he pockets. Hoping to avoid claims of dereliction and also help his sad friend Martin if he can, watchman Alfred Gamache asks for help from Victor, who spends countless hours in his bookshop discussing local events with his assistant, Joseph, aka Jojo. Before Victor can gain any traction in the case of the murdered Louise Fontaine, Baron Edmond de La Gournay and famous couturier Richard Gaétan, both members of the unconventional Black Unicorn Society, are also found murdered under similar circumstances. Could they be connected to the dead Louise?
Though Izner's sixth (In the Shadow of Paris, 2011, etc.) rambles quite a bit, the digressions provide a delightfully frothy wide-angle portrait of colorful belle-epoque characters and settings.