In this sequel, treasure hunters chase a MacGuffin for the ages: the Crimson Heirlooms.
This story about the heirlooms—the fabulous Cross of Nantes and “the words of the devil’s song” at the carnage in the Vendée Militaire—toggles mostly between France and Hispaniola in the Caribbean from the late 1780s to the 1830s. The Guerrier twins, Estelle and Guillaume (aka Beau-Brave), are originally from Saint-Domingue on Hispaniola but now live in France. Beau-Brave is a charismatic figure determined to be a political playwright, advancing the Rousseau-ian ideals of the Enlightenment. Estelle has wound up in Nantes as a paid companion. She is almost too good for this world. She will fall in love with Xavier Traversier, the heir to his rich family’s mercantile operation in Nantes; be spurned; and—well, it is just too tragic. She wears the Cross of Nantes around her lovely neck, the mystical object that will disappear. The searcher who finds the heirlooms will legally inherit the Traversier family’s valuable holdings. Meanwhile, Jacob “Jake” Loring, an American student in France, battle-tested at the barricades, has been dragooned by his nemesis, Monsieur Tyran, into looking for the heirlooms in exchange for his life. Eventually, Estelle makes a fateful decision concerning the cross and her brother. Beau-Brave will surely play an important role in the French Revolution. Meanwhile—about 40 years hence—Jake runs into trouble in a supposedly safe haven. Dennis (The Crimson Heirlooms, 2018) is a talented storyteller and a sedulous student of history. The novel ranges from dramatic action to historical and philosophical exposition to a study of the often politically subversive theater of the time, with excursions into the life of nightsoilers and the deadly combination of mobs and rumors. The author writes well: graceful, witty, imagistic. Here he discusses an associate of Xavier’s named Rag: “Today, he sat slumped in his chair, his eyes downcast, his mien pensive. Rag’s historical extroversion was so pronounced, his present demeanor was akin to his skull being inside out.” This engrossing installment comes with stark, grainy black-and-white photographs, mostly interior or exterior shots by Dennis of locales mentioned in the text. In addition, there’s a helpful list of main characters and a pronunciation appendix that offers much witty, snarky commentary.
Fans of epic sagas should be happy to lose themselves in this lavish book—and there’s another volume to come.