As the French Revolution comes to an end, a wealthy patriarch perishes along with it.
The atmosphere in Paris in the spring of 1797 is gloomy. Struggling in the aftermath of the Revolution, freelance investigator Aristide Ravel (Game of Patience, 2006) still has nightmares of executed colleagues. At the local police station, where he trolls for work, Aristide becomes curious about the death of elderly Martin Dupont. The surgeon, Citizen Hébert, rules that Dupont died from tainted food. His son-in-law Laurence points out that everyone who ate that same food became sick. But Dupont’s daughter Magdeleine cries murder and accuses the new cook, Jeannette Moineau, who’s promptly arrested. Witnessing this police-station wrangling, Aristide sees Jeannette as an innocent pawn in a complex family battle and helps convince his friend Commissaire Brasseur to investigate further. There’s no lack of motive or of colorful subplots among the substantial list of suspects, which Brasseur and Aristide proceed through methodically. Dupont’s second wife, Ursule (his first died at a young age), was having an affair with dashing servant Jullien, but claims this was part of her arrangement with her much-older husband. Dupont’s other son, Gervais, is a volatile actor with a history of irrational behavior. And no one doubts cold-blooded Magdeleine’s capacity to kill.
Alleyn’s historical authenticity—extending to a bibliography, glossary and other explanatory features—lifts her competent and conventional whodunit above the ordinary.