An unusually graceful and unforced soupâ€¡on of period crime in turn-of-the-century Paris--with the emphasis on personalities and police politics rather than mystery. After all, it's obvious from the start that notorious Madame Josephine Hassler is at least an accessory, that she's lying about how her portrait-painter husband and her old mother turned up one morning trussed and dead in bed. (She has invented a bizarre tale about bearded, robed bandits!) But the Director of the Sâ€“retâ€š insists on swearing by Madame H.'s innocence (could this be because of her covered-up affair with the late President of France?), so quiet, determined Inspector Gautier must again and again gather absolute evidence to contradict the false accusations, frame-ups, and alibis of the huffy, nervy grande dame. And, along the way to an unsurprising but shapely unraveling, he acquires a liberated mistress, visits Maxim's, and is challenged to a duel by the Russian ambassador. Far from gripping, but gently amusing and free of all formula--so fanciers of neat police-work with a True-Crime aroma should be entertained. . . and pleased that the last page here promises future exploits for taciturn, shrewd Inspector Gautier.