An unlikely sleuth seeks to protect Montreal’s cachet as a tourist destination by tracking down a killer whose handiwork is trashing the city’s reputation.
Martine LeDuc is nobody’s idea of a detective. As directrice de publicité for Mayor Jean-Luc Boulanger, her job is public relations, not homicide investigation. But when a fourth woman is found reclining on one of the city’s park benches, naked, raped and dead, Martine’s boss calls on her to coordinate communications between Police Director François Desrocher and his own office because everyone else is too busy. Martine, faced with a particularly awkward situation because her deputy, Richard Rousseau, had been seeing research librarian Danielle Leroux, the most recent victim, partners with Détective-lieutenant Julian Fletcher of the city police to track down the murderer. Even though the four victims were of different ages, social classes and walks of life, they all had a connection to the Cité de Saint-Jean-de-Dieu Asylum, notorious in retrospect for its habit half a century earlier of taking in illegitimate children, denying them any education or vocational training, and forcing them to hard labor. The truth about the asylum, the unlikely sleuthing pair discover, is much grimmer than that. Considering that this isn’t Martine’s line of work, or even her hobby, her discoveries come with disconcerting ease and swiftness; she barely takes a wrong step until the villain takes her captive in a tunnel beneath the asylum and injects a cocktail of drugs into her, cackling all the while about what he’s going to do if she’s not rescued in time.
An afterword by de Beauvoir roots the mystery in real-life events that sound just as depressing, though a good deal less improbable and melodramatic.