Asylum: A Mystery

Asylum: A Mystery

by Jeannette de Beauvoir

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781250045393
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Publication date: 03/10/2015
Edition description: First Edition
Pages: 320
Product dimensions: 5.60(w) x 8.30(h) x 1.20(d)

About the Author

JEANNETTE DE BEAUVOIR is an award-winning author, novelist, and poet whose work has been translated into 12 languages and has appeared in 15 countries. She explores personal and moral questions through historical fiction, mysteries, and mainstream fiction. Home is an old sea captain's house on the tip of Cape Cod, although she spends some part of every year in Montréal and in Great Britain.

Read an Excerpt


A Mystery

By Jeannette de Beauvoir

St. Martin's Press

Copyright © 2015 Jeannette de Beauvoir
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4668-4403-2


It was Ivan who started it all.

My husband is an avid consumer of the morning news, but does not ascribe to the time-honored spousal mealtime practice of hiding behind a newspaper; he has his electronic tablet at the breakfast table, where he scans news in two languages: the Montréal Gazette, the Globe and Mail, and, on occasion, CNN, while scarfing down rolls and orange juice. Me, I'm not ready to face any of these options—morning is not exactly my finest hour—and so I generally sip coffee and just listen to his running commentary.

"They've found another body," Ivan said that Friday morning, his voice somber.

I looked up from my café au lait. "Another woman?"

He nodded. "On another park bench, over on the Plateau," he said.

I didn't have to ask what he was referring to. Montréal had been experiencing a spate of apparently random killings that summer—three, to be exact—that were now spilling into fall with number four. The police, the news outlets assured us, were following leads. In the meantime, women all over the city were advised to take precautions: not to take the bus or Métro alone, to purchase extra locks for apartments and lofts, to ask service people for identification.

I leaned so I could read over Ivan's shoulder. One Danielle Leroux, thirty-four, apparently hadn't taken enough of those advertised precautions.

I shuddered and put down my coffee. "I should get ready for work," I said. But I didn't move, fixed in the moment, fixed to the spot. It was as though Danielle Leroux's tragedy had, for a passing shivering instant, become my own.

And then the moment was over and I met Ivan's quizzical dark eyes. I shrugged. "It just sucks," I said, using one of the many English-language colloquialisms at which I have become so proficient since marrying Ivan, an Anglophone living in a predominantly Francophone city.

He nodded. "You're being careful, right, Martine?" No husband likes to hear about other women being murdered, especially this close to home.

I stood up from the table and carried my bowl to the sink. The ghost of Danielle's presence paused, lingered, and then disappeared, a bright shimmer in the air. "I'm being careful."

Ivan got up and stood behind me, slipping his arms easily around my waist. "It's just," he said, "that I've gotten used to you. I'd hate to have you disappear, too."

I twisted around so I was facing him, our bodies still touching. "Used to me? That's the best you can do?"

Ivan smiled, pulling me closer to him. "We Russians," he said softly, his lips millimeters from mine, "are the masters of understatement." And then he kissed me.

Ivan, it has to be noted, consistently makes something of a show of his Russian heritage; but the truth is that it was his great-grandparents, aristocrats, who fled St. Petersburg for Paris a week before the October Revolution, not Ivan himself. To the best of my knowledge, no one in his family has ever gone back. His father was raised in France and spoke some Russian at home; but my father-in-law left Paris for the United States right after earning a degree at the Sorbonne, to take a post teaching at MIT, and Ivan's own accent reflects the academic corridors of Boston far more than it does the tea rooms of Moscow.

Which doesn't keep him, of course, from appropriating any Russian attribute that he cares to claim when the occasion arises.

I held him for a moment, tightly, then released the pressure in my arms. Ivan immediately let go and turned back to the table, folding his tall body back into the chair. "So what's on your plate for today?" he asked, his voice casual, an undercurrent of the kiss we'd just shared still running through it.

I cleared my throat and turned back to the sink. "Meeting with the mayor et compagnie at ten," I said, briefly, glancing at the clock. "The usual check-in to make sure that the world still thinks well of our fair city." My job is to make sure that it does; my title is directrice de publicité—publicity director—for the city of Montréal, so I'm responsible, in an odd way, for everything from street performers to press releases. Anything that can make Montréal look good—or bad—passes across my desk at one time or another.

I alternately adore and detest what I do; but one thing I can say for sure: it's never dull.

"Sounds like a summons to me," Ivan remarked, taking the last swallow of his espresso. The beep of his e-mail sounded and he frowned down at the tablet display.

"I hope not." But he was probably correct. The mayor only noticed my existence when something was going wrong. And another murder certainly qualified as being very wrong indeed. Calling in the troops in order to spread the blame among them was pretty much his style.

Ivan was scanning e-mails. He was already moving away from me, his mind skimming across the river to the casino and its own set of myriad unique problems. Ivan is the director of poker operations for the Montréal Casino and, in some ways, his job is not unlike mine. Making sure that people are happy, that operations are running smoothly, that those who come to our fair city to play are playing both well and fair.

Every day is a special day for those of us whose professions are to provide fun and frolic to others.

I knew better than to interrupt. Instead, I ducked into my own study and assembled the papers and accoutrements I'd need for my day, replaced the ballet slippers I wore at home with the heels I was wearing to the office. In the hallway I stopped for a last check in the mirror, putting on my lipstick, smoothing my often-rebellious thick black hair, adjusting the scarf around my neck. By the time I was ready, Ivan was wearing his raincoat, preparing to leave through the back door to pick up our Volvo in the mews where we kept it garaged. "Gotta run, love."

"D'accord." I leaned into him for our ritual good-bye kiss. We had agreed, when we first were married, that we'd never part without one, and we were pretty good about keeping the commitment. It was Ivan's idea: his own first marriage had died from lack of—what? Oxygen? Rituals? Passion? Whatever it was, he was going to make sure it didn't happen a second time. "Be good, be happy."

"Be good, be happy," I echoed, and he was gone.

I managed to snag a seat on the Métro and peered over the shoulder of my neighbor, reading the Gazette's French-language version of the news about the new murder. There wasn't much more than what Ivan had shared with me. This victim was young, pretty. Too young, too pretty. I gave myself a mental shake as I got off the train. Starting the day depressed didn't bode very well for the rest of it.

I work out of City Hall, down near the port, in what's called the "old city," le Vieux-Montréal, a warren of twisting cobblestone streets and ancient secrets, art galleries and tourist attractions.

Every time I'm down here—which is, of course, every day—I'm convinced that it's the prettiest section of Montréal, but in reality I'm deeply and passionately in love with the whole city. Every quartier has its charms: Chinatown, the Plateau, Little Italy, Gay Village, the mountain itself with the city spreading up its slopes to the Oratory at almost eight hundred feet, even the chrome-and-glass and massage parlors of the official downtown area.

I love that we have municipal bicycles to grab and use at regular intervals, that there are bike lanes crisscrossing the city, that we take being green to heart. I love that we're all bilingual, often in the same sentence, shopkeepers' greetings usually consisting of "bonjour, hello." I love all the neighborhoods, with their odd and twisting outside staircases and their brightly painted doors and window boxes, the heat of Montréal's summers and the cursed snowbanks of its winters.

But maybe what I do love best of all is this small section of my city, this place where I work, the original Iroquois village by the life-giving river, once called Hochelaga and then Ville-Sainte-Marie when the French moved in ... where now tourists are taken about in calèches, the clopping of the horses' hooves echoing off the buildings in the narrow streets, where Rollerbladers skim along the waterfront, and museums guard the past and welcome the future.

I flipped my ID badge to the security guard in the lobby of the (even I have to admit) extremely impressive hôtel de ville and took the elevator up to the fourth floor. My administrative assistant, Chantal, looked up from her computer screen as I came in. "Did you see the news?"

"I did," I agreed grimly. "Any messages?"

"You know there are," she said, handing me the stack of pink slips. "And Janine from the mayor's office called twice to remind you about the meeting this morning."

"As if I could forget." I sighed and hooked my foot around the door, closing it behind me, my hands full. Even a moment of solitude would help before facing the politicos for whom I worked.

My office has a decent view of the old city, with the coveted south-facing orientation that enables me to see the river and the beautiful island called the Île des Soeurs, the nuns' island; if I went right up to the window and peered in the right direction, I could make out the casino. Sometimes, when I was feeling lonely or romantic, I'd go and look over there and whisper erotic messages to Ivan. He's never given any indication that he received any of them. Apparently my extrasensory communication skills are a little subpar.

My desk holds the usual paraphernalia—art deco lamp, computer, framed family photographs. Pictures of Ivan and me summering in Nova Scotia, laughing in each other's arms. A serious picture of him, alone, with the Jacques Cartier bridge in the background. And pictures of Lukas and Claudia, Ivan's kids: on the rides at la Ronde, the permanent amusement park on the Île Sainte-Hélène that was now part of the Six Flags franchise; playing with sparklers on our rooftop terrace; eating crêpes down at the Old Port. Family stuff.

The buzzer on the desk sounded. "The mayor is ready," said Chantal's disembodied voice.

And on that happy note, it was time to go.

I suppose that there had been a life sometime before the orphanage, but I could never really remember it—not really, not as a whole. There were only scraps left, understanding a colloquial expression I couldn't remember having heard before, a tune that wouldn't get out of my head, a sense of something almost familiar lurking in my peripheral vision that disappeared as soon as I turned my head to look at it.

They say that you don't remember anything before you're four or five years old, but there are memories, I know there are, they just lack the clarity and specificity of more recent ones.

But there had been a time when I wasn't at the orphanage. There had been a life. It was a small truth, but it was my only one. I had had a life, before.

And I knew that I was lucky in my truth. Some of the others, they'd been left with the sisters, the bonnes soeurs, as soon as they were born, baskets on the doorstep. No time for memories there.

I even knew my mother. At least for a while. Until she got married, and didn't come to visit anymore, drawing with her absence a line plainly and firmly beneath who she'd been, so that she could become who she needed to be.

Later, much later, I recognized how brave that was, her coming to visit me, being willing to see me at all. The sisters never tried to hide their disgust at—and contempt for—the moral lapse that had resulted in my conception, and I'm sure they made her continued presence in my life very difficult.

At the time, of course, all I knew was that I wanted her to return—but only so that she could take me away. Every time she came, I begged her to take me with her; I pleaded, crying, and she never did. I think—or maybe it's just wishful thinking on my part, maybe I made this up so I could feel better, feel loved—that her plan was to marry someone who would understand. Someone who could come with her to the orphanage and pluck me out of the long dormitory room under the eaves and take me back to Verchères, the village upriver from Montréal in the Montrégie district where I had apparently been born. He would adopt me; we could be a family together.

But there were few enough men willing to marry a fallen woman, and fewer still eager to raise her illegitimate child; after she married, my mother never came again.

I waited for her, of course; every time I could get to a window, I watched for her, waiting for my name to be called to the front parlor, disbelieving that she would abandon me. There had to be some sort of mistake. She would come again one day.

I don't know that I ever really believed she wouldn't.

I kept going back. For months, I kept going back, lurking by windows, hearing car doors slam and running with wings on my feet to see who had come. One of these days, it would be her; I was sure of it. One of these days she could come for me.

I couldn't believe that I was something she needed to hide.

I should be grateful, I suppose, that she'd kept me away from the nuns for as long as she had. As long as she'd been able. Maybe she knew, in her heart of hearts, the lie behind the cloister door, that the bonnes soeurs—the "good sisters"—weren't actually all that bonne.

Maybe she knew the truth behind that lie, that despite what parents and guardians were told in the polished front parlors, the children left with the nuns weren't ever going to be put up for adoption, or educated, or really cared for at all.

It sounds like neglect, doesn't it, when I write it like that? Like their sin (and trust me when I say that sin there was) was a sin of omission, not of commission. But not loving us, not caring for us—that was really only the beginning.

The rest was so very much worse.


Mayor Jean-Luc Boulanger was prompt. My boss is always prompt; in the next election, he's probably going to run on his ability to be on time.

He certainly has precious little else to run on. He may well have appointed me to my position, but ours was an uneasy relationship: I needed his political connections, he needed my skills and expertise. I didn't vote for Jean-Luc, and working for him hasn't improved my opinion of the man. But we can't always choose the people we work with, can we?

He noted my arrival in the conference room on the first floor with a curt nod. "Bonjour, Madame LeDuc."

"Monsieur le maire," I murmured politely, sliding into a seat across the table from him, opening my planner and pulling out a pad of blank paper, writing the date and time on the top sheet. September 18. 10:00 a.m. Anything to avoid small talk.

Richard Rousseau, my deputy, came in and sat next to me, swiveling his chair to move it a little closer. "Do you have any idea what the meeting is about today?"

"Non," I answered, under my breath. A lock of hair had escaped and was on my forehead; I tucked it back behind my ear. "But I'll give you three guesses."

He grimaced. "Danielle Leroux?"

"Danielle Leroux, Annie Desmarchais, Caroline Richards, and Isabelle Hubert," I reminded him, appalled that I knew the names by heart. Appalled at the reason for knowing their names. "All of the above."

Richard nodded and scowled across the table as the police director, along with the assistant director, two aides, and their public relations officer seated themselves obsequiously around the mayor. They were from the Service de Police de la Ville de Montréal, or SPVM, the city police.

Just to keep our lives interesting, we have three police forces that can potentially all be working in Montréal. They sometimes even actually acknowledge each other's existence.

There was the SPVM (the city police), the Sûreté de Québec—police who cover all of the province—and the national Royal Canadian Mounted Police. Three levels of policing, and they do not always play well together. The city police resent it when the provincial police try to hone in on anything in the city; and they both resent the Mounties, who aren't all that popular anywhere in the province.


Excerpted from Asylum by Jeannette de Beauvoir. Copyright © 2015 Jeannette de Beauvoir. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Asylum: A Mystery 3.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 5 reviews.
Cecile-Sune-Book-Obsessed More than 1 year ago
Martine LeDuc is the publicity director for the city of Montreal. When a string of murders threatens the municipality’s tourism industry, she is asked to be the liaison between the mayor and the police director. She is partnered with Julian Fletcher, a police detective, and together they decide to lead their own investigation. Soon they discover that the killings seem to have a link with the Duplessis Orphans and the medical experiments the CIA was conducting on these abandoned children from the 1950s to the 1970s. Are these murders the work of a deranged serial killer or the result of an even more sinister conspiration? In a parallel story told in flashbacks, a young girl, Gabrielle Roy, is brought to an orphanage and then transferred to an asylum where she witnesses the horrific treatment on these poor children while doing her best to survive. Asylum is a compelling mystery with a great pace. The real-life story of the Duplessis Orphans is heartbreaking, and the author pays them a beautiful tribute with this book. From the 1950s to the 1970s, single mothers or poor families were forced to abandon their children in orphanages. The kids were then transferred to asylums because the government provided more funding to these institutions. At the same time, the CIA was running a mind-control research program called MK-Ultra in Quebec and was testing drug-induced mind-control techniques on children in the asylums. As a result, these poor kids were abused and tortured, and many of them died. This dark part of Quebec’s history should not be ignored, and I admire Jeannette de Beauvoir for writing about it. I was also drawn to Asylum because of where it is taking place. I live a couple hours’ drive from Montreal and I have been there many times, so I enjoyed the references to the Old City and other landmarks. However, I thought it was a bit of a stretch that a publicity director for the city of Montreal would help the police in a murder case. But once you accept this premise, the story is entertaining and the book hard to put down. I must say though that I did figure out who the killer was half-way through the book. But I think it was only by chance when I looked at the notes I was taking for this review. In the end, it was well worth my time to keep reading to know how Martine and Julian solved the case. I highly recommend this book. Asylum was sent to me for free in exchange for an honest review. Please go to my blog, Cecile Sune - Bookobsessed, if you would like to read more reviews or discover fun facts about books and authors.
Samantha1020 More than 1 year ago
his book originally went on my radar went it was first released but then it sat on my shelves unread. I'm so regretting this as I found this book to be absolutely fantastic! There is a very good chance that this one will make my top reads list for 2017! I loved the summary above which is why I originally wanted to read it. What I didn't realize is that this author based some of the events of this book on a true and terrible event in Canada's history. I don't want to say too much as it plays an important role in this mystery but I will say that it completely adds to this book even if it is horrifying to think about. I found myself absolutely sucked into the story from almost the very beginning. The book is set up in two parts. One is focused on Martine LeDuc and her hunt to figure out who is behind the killings of these women in Montreal. The other storyline focused on the story of one of the orphans and what happened to that individual so long ago. These two storylines tied together so perfectly and I just won't say any more than that. I was absolutely just blown away by how good this book was! I also really enjoyed this book because it was set in Canada and the author managed to bring Montreal to life for me in this book. This is the second book I've read set in Canada this year and I have just adored the chance to read about this country that I've never had the chance to visit for myself. I loved the descriptions of Montreal that the author included and especially adored all of the French phrases that were included throughout. It really made me feel like I was there with the characters. I liked that Martine wasn't your usual detective - in fact she wasn't a detective at all but got involved with the hunt for this killer in a very realistic way. I found myself unable to stop reading this book for long. And the ending was so intense that I just gave up watching my son at football practice and lost myself completely in finishing this book. The ending was so flipping good and I won't say any more than that. I've tried to keep the spoilers to a minimum here but this is a book that I can't recommend enough! Overall, I found myself so completely blown away by this book and I cannot even put into words how much I enjoyed it! I feel like it's kinda awful to say when you think about the actual historical events that this book was based around but I still really, really enjoyed it! I'm so excited that I have another book in this series to look forward to but I'm hoping the 3rd is on it's way. This is an author to watch for as this is only her very first book! Crazy! I'm really excited that I finally pulled this one off of my shelves (thanks to my husband) because I was missing out. I would recommend this one to both mystery and thriller fans alike! Just be warned that there are some definite triggers here so sensitive readers be warned. Highly recommended! Bottom Line: A mystery that will stick with me for a long time thanks to the events it was based around. So good! Disclosure: I received a copy of this book thanks to a Goodread's giveaway and the publisher.
BuriedUnderBooks More than 1 year ago
The evil that humans can do can never be a real surprise but it is still shocking to discover that there seem to be few, if any, limits to that evil. Asylum opens a window on a time in Montreal's past that was entirely unknown to me and, I suspect, to many readers. I'm of two minds when contemplating how to describe my reaction to this book. On the one hand, it's a really good mystery, a mixture of amateur sleuth and police procedural. There are a few too many coincidences and Martine escapes harm a bit too facilely sometimes but she's a likeable protagonist as is Detective Julian Fletcher. I enjoyed riding along with them as they investigated and didn't guess things too early. In short, this is a well-written piece of crime fiction. On the other hand, the voices of the children in the asylum were heartbreaking and any reader who can't bear seeing harm come to children should probably avoid, if not the entire book, at least the italicized sections at the end of some chapters. I happen to believe it's important to know our history even if it seems we don't often learn from it; if we don't examine what our forbears have done, it's much more likely such things will happen again. Ms. de Beauvoir includes an Author's Note that reveals the known truths behind the story and the list of names of some of the victims is especially poignant. When all is said and done, this is a disturbing tale but I'm glad to have read it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Ridiculous premise. No government is so stupid as to put a PR woman on police work. Absurd.
MikiHope More than 1 year ago
In the Author's Notes at the end of this novel she states "Much of what my fictional protagonist Martine LeDuc learned about Montréal’s past is, unfortunately, true." and what she reveals in this novel will have you shivering and shaking your heads. This is a definite page turner-but not one for the faint of heart. It should make you think about what really goes on or went on in that shadowy world of international intrigue where convenience comes before human values and that we never really hear about in real life. You will need tissues as you learn the fate of the Orphans and what they went through in the name of science and money. Throughout this tale there is a sub tale written in italics by an unknown character who I really thought might be the killer of the 4 women who had been found staged on park benches. What was their connection-is this your usual run of the mill sex offender or someone a lot more sinister. The police department is trying to hide it under the rug but Martine LeDuc, the director of PR in Montreal and Richard, a police detective that nobody in his department thinks much of combine forces to find out the truth. This book will resonate with me for a long time--and it will with you as well.