The French Revolution has succeeded in deposing the monarchy. King Louis XIV is sentenced to death – he is to be executed by Madame Guillotine in four days time. Celie Laurent and her small group of like-minded individuals are concerned. While not supporters of the monarchy, they feel that if Louis is executed, then France will be at the mercy of her monarchist neighbours and things will become worse, not better.
A plan is hatched under the leadership of Bernave – Louis is to be substituted on his way to his fate and in the confusion, he will be spirited out of Paris. But then their townhouse is stormed by revolutionaries desperate for food. Bernave stands up to the group, but Bernave falls – he has been stabbed… in the back. It’s up to Celie to keep the conspiracy alive, while trying to work out who the murderer – and possible traitor to the cause – may be.
I know very little about the French Revolution. It wasn’t covered at school – basically I knew Louis XIV, Marie Antoinette, guillotines and, if pushed, Robespierre and possibly Marat. As such, when I got the opportunity to review this book, re-released via Open Road Media, I figured it was an excellent chance to learn. It also gave me the ideal opportunity to feature the historical mystery specialist Anne Perry for the first time in the blog – an oversight that I wa
s delighted to correct.
And the background history here is outstanding. There is no sense of a romanticising of the period, instead telling the story of people trapped between the out-and-out Royalists and the hard-line revolutionaries. The notion of the need to rescue the King is established well – indeed, you feel that it must be the right course of action. But of course, we know how history plays out… don’t we?
The plot to rescue the King takes the lion’s share of the action, and rightly so, as it is the most interesting part. Unfortunately the whodunnit part is relegated to the background at times, but it’s not the point of the book, really. There’s some clever stuff with the motives, once they are revealed, but, to be honest, the identity of the killer is a bit of a guessing game.
That doesn’t matter, though, as what you have here is an engrossing and informative historical thriller which takes its time to pull you in. It may not be to everyone’s taste, but it’s extremely well-written and completely pulled me into a world that I knew little about. Recommended.