The chaotic days following the French Revolution form the backdrop for this absorbing sequel to 2006's The Game of Patience, Alleyn's third novel, in which police spy Aristide Ravel and Commissaire Brasseur explore the various motives and opportunities of the Dupont family after their patriarch is poisoned. The late Monsieur Dupont's widowed daughter-in-law enlists the two Paris policemen when the family's servant girl, Jeannette Moineau, is accused of the poisoning—a charge Mademoiselle Dupont considers absurd. The investigation moves forward, but another death soon follows. With a light, literate hand, Alleyn includes a wealth of detail about life in France during the Republican period, while ratcheting up the tension with every chapter. Fans of Charles O'Brien (Mute Witness) and Baroness Orczy (The Scarlet Pimpernel) will be delighted. (Apr.)
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Two points pertinent to this novel cannot be argued against: mystery novels set in the historical past are in vogue, and historical novels set in the closing years of France's ancien regime and during the Revolution are equally so. This author's newest installment in her mystery series taps again into both hot genres. She takes as her sleuth one Aristide Ravel, who is an unofficial investigator for the police department, enjoying a "modestly profitable career" helping to solve crimes--other people would call him, and do call him, an informer. That the reader is in the hands of an author interested in immaculate historical detail and accuracy is evidenced from page 1, which starts on the sixteenth of Ventose, a month in France's new revolutionary calendar. The police have taken into custody a young servant girl accused by the family who employs her of poisoning the family patriarch. Determining her guilt or innocence is the objective in this traditionally plotted and atmospheric whodunit. Brad Hooper
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