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Posted July 10, 2010
For lovers of mystery mixed with a bit of classical Rome or England
Suicide bombers in Republican Paris? Plus ça change.. The more things change, the more they stay the same. For the King is a police procedural novel. Think CSI, but with the Eiffel Tower in the background instead of the casinos of Las Vegas or the bridges of Manhattan.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
It's December 24, 1800, according to the old calendar, Year Nine of the Republic, the third of Nivose in the revolutionary calendar. The French Revolution began eleven years ago, the Terror, seven years ago, and they're still using Madame Guillotine (and firing squads, too). A general named Bonaparte has been winning battles throughout Europe and has recently taken on the title First Consul of the First French Republic (he won't crown himself emperor until 1804). Meanwhile, two groups are out to assassinate him: the Jacobins (extreme revolutionaries) and the Royalists who want to restore the monarchy and install Louis XVIII on the throne.
As the story opens, three men drive a wagon filled with gunpowder along Rue Nicaise in Paris, the very route Napoleon will take that night on his way to the opera. The three men park the wagon, find a young female street vendor to hold the mare's bridle, and wait for the First Consul. But their timing is poor, and when they set off the bomb, the explosion kills numerous passers-by and leaves a crater in the street. But their target is already at the opera.
"My telling of the search for the assassins," Catherine Delors, a French attorney with an international practice, writes in her historical note, "often considered the first modern police investigation, is based upon the archives of the Ministry and Prefecture of Police in Paris" (pg. 331). Our hero is Citizen Chief Inspector Miquel, a loner whose mistress is a member of the ci-devant aristocracy (the aristocrats "before now"). Miquel is assigned the case, but the police department is corrupt, and Miquel has to deal with a Prefect who is less competent than Sherlock Holmes's Inspector Lestrade (well, let's say he's as smart as Inspector Clouseau), corrupt politicians, and fellow cops who are both stupid and sadistic. Unlike our modern detective stories, there's no question of rights in this book. Witnesses and suspects alike are intimidated, threatened, and tortured as Riquel races with the clock to solve the crime. As in some other modern detective stories, we know who the assassins are, so the interest in this novel is the cat-and-mouse chase and how Miquel does his job.
Quill says: If you enjoy detective stories and police procedurals and also like those stories when they're set in, say, classical Rome or medieval England, then this is a book you'll want to read.
Posted May 10, 2010
his is an excellent Napoleon Era French police procedural
For the King
Dutton, Jul 8 2010, $26.95
In 1800 a bomb explodes on the road Napoleon travels. He survives the attempt, but the assassins kill dozens of bystanders. Police Chief Inspector Roch Miquel investigates the assassination attempt and the homicides, in which the culprits had no regard for the innocents.
His inquiry is hampered by his corrupt uncooperative peers. Even more of a handicap is his superior the Minister of Police Fouche, who incarcerates Roch's father on a phony charge to control his independent minded chief inspector. Feeling beleaguered and handcuffed with every step he takes, Roch turns to his married mistress Blanche Coudert for solace, but she conceals something that if it became public could leave the cop sharing a cell with his dad; that is if they are not deported or beheaded.
This is an excellent Napoleon Era French police procedural starring a dedicated chief inspector who feels frustrated with every inquiry he makes. The investigation is cleverly designed so that for every clue he follows someone interferes. With a sense of time and place to anchor the superb story line, readers who enjoy a strong historical whodunit will want to follow Roch's efforts to solve the mass murder assassination attempt.
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Posted October 15, 2011
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