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After two mysteries set in the aftermath of the French Revolution, Game of Patience(2006) and A Treasury of Regrets(2007), Alleyn recounts how her series sleuth, Aristide Ravel, became a detective in this superb prequel set in 1786. While visiting the site of a Paris church fire, Ravel, a poor aspiring writer who bears the emotional scars of a long-ago family trauma, encounters Inspector Brasseur, whom he recognizes as a former neighbor. Brasseur later seeks Ravel's help when an unidentified man turns up dead in a churchyard, his throat slit and a Masonic symbol carved into his chest, and hires Ravel as a subinspector. As the inquiry continues, Ravel begins to suspect that the Masons may be connected with a plot to replace Louis XVI with the Duc d'Orléans as well as a scandal involving the disappearance of the queen's necklace. Alleyn expertly captures the politics and atmosphere of the period, seamlessly integrating them into a traditional whodunit plot. (July)Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.