Rock offers a debut novel rich with historical detail about everyday life in Paris, especially among the Jesuits, in the year 1686.
Twenty-eight-year-old Maître Charles Matthieu Beuvron du Luc has just completed the most difficult task of his young life by helping his distant cousin and love of his life, Pernelle, a Huguenot, escape from France. Charles and Pernelle were in love once, but she married another and Charles allayed his sorrow by marching off to war. Gravely injured, Charles decided upon his recovery to join the Jesuits and, although he has not yet taken his final vows, he has been shipped off to Paris by an uncle who discovered Charles’ role in Pernelle’s escape. The Huguenots remain in a dangerous place in the politics of the time, and aiding one is an offense not taken lightly. Charles presents himself at the College of Louis le Grand, where he is assigned as a rhetoric instructor. He is also tasked with helping to produce the school’s annual production, which combines a play (in this case Latin tragedy) with an elaborate dance performance. As Charles settles into his new life, a student is murdered and another injured in a strange chain of events. Charles suspects that a high-ranking school official has ties to the crimes and sets out to solve the case. He follows the leads he uncovers, but is soon discovered and pressed into service by the police, who want him to spy for them. Soon, Charles finds himself a target—and even worse, he discovers that others are also in harm’s way. Charles struggles to identify the killer against the backdrop of a Paris swollen with intrigue and religious strife. Rock’s book, though somewhat overwritten, is meticulously researched. She captures a city and time that is lively, dangerous and politically charged, and makes it sing.
Readers will divine the good guys from the bad much faster than the likable and conscientious hero, but Rock’s fine eye for historic detail and well-drawn characters will continue to engage readers long after they’ve put a name to the villain.