A former soldier–turned–Jesuit scholar solves a series of mysteries during the reign of Louis XIV.
When Maître Charles du Luc and his confessor, Père Auguste Dainville, make a pilgrimage in late 1687 to the crypt of a Carmelite church in Paris, the shock of finding a young man’s body in the well chamber gives the aged Dainville a fatal stroke. Charles, a proud scion of the minor nobility, wants justice for Dainville, his mentor on the difficult road to priesthood. Then, Charles’ resentful cousin, who fought with him in the Battle of Cassel, intrudes on his theological studies and reveals that another veteran of Cassel, Amaury de Corbet, has also embraced the Society of Jesus. Charles suspects that his former comrade in arms is trying to assuage his guilt rather than following a true vocation. While dealing with issues of religious life, Charles also helps the chief of police find the murderer of the young man in the crypt. A contraband book, a political conspiracy, a woman with a questionable connection to Amaury, the disappearance of two of Charles’ fellow scholars and a goatherd/seer lead to a giddy dénouement strangely at odds with an otherwise leisurely, sometimes-pedantic tale.
Rock (A Plague of Lies, 2012, etc.) has painstakingly recreated 17th-century Paris, although with a decidedly modern emphasis on guilt as a prime motivator. A strong, sympathetic protagonist, however, atones for both the author’s lapses and his own in this latest case file of an aspiring priest.