It's 1908: Clayton Peavey, a young American on leave from Harvard, arrives in Paris with vague artistic intentions. In a cafe, he meets Guillaume MalaimÃ‰ (read Apollinaire), poet and art critic--and together they explore the world of the Cubist painters, the avant-garde poets, the Ballets-Russes. They're also together in attendance at a street-performance by a family of saltimbanques: acrobats (suggested by Apollinaire's famous poem, ""Un FantÃ´me de NuÃ‰es""). And during the show, in Glazier's invention, one of the saltimbanques is mysteriously murdered. From then on, Glazier gives Guillaume and Peavey their head as a team of detectives; off they go in search of why the saltimbanque was murdered and what the miniature African mask filled with gunpowder he was wearing around his neck signified. So the ill-paired duo travels to: an occultist's sÃ‰ance; Morocco (base for Anglo-German machinations against France); London; and Alsace-Lorraine (the ""lost provinces"" of the title, where the saltimbanques hail from and to which they are revanchist-ly pledged). And, all the while, first-novelist Glazier is busily stuffing gouts of history down the throat of each chapter, making for a heavy, pedantic book too vigorously churned into a mÃ‰lange. For a literary re-creation of the period on somewhat similar lines, William Wiser's recent Disappearances is much better--and even as straight historical-adventure entertainment, Glazier's book is not a quarter of the fun it might have been.