Game of Patience

Game of Patience

by Susanne Alleyn

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Overview

Game of Patience by Susanne Alleyn

Paris, 1796. Aristide Ravel, freelance undercover police agent and investigator, is confronted with a double murder in a fashionable apartment. The victims are Célie Montereau, the daughter of a wealthy and influential family, and the man who was blackmailing her.

Information steers Ravel toward a young man with a violent past who was in love with Célie, but further inquiry reveals that-according to an eyewitness-he cannot have been her murderer. And recent, notorious miscarriages of justice lead Ravel, beset with fears of sending an innocent person to the guillotine, to doubt his instincts. From the gritty back alleys of Paris to its glittering salons and cafés, through the heart of the feverish, decadent society of postrevolutionary France, his investigation leads him into a puzzle involving hidden secrets, crimes of passion, and long-nurtured hatreds.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781502463708
Publisher: CreateSpace Publishing
Publication date: 09/23/2014
Pages: 266
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.56(d)

About the Author

Susanne Alleyn has loved history all her life, aided and abetted by her grandmother, Lillie V. Albrecht, an author of historical children's books in the 1950s and 60s. Susanne is the author of the Aristide Ravel historical mystery series, set in revolutionary Paris; A FAR BETTER REST, the reimagining of Dickens's A TALE OF TWO CITIES; the nonfiction writer's guide MEDIEVAL UNDERPANTS AND OTHER BLUNDERS; and THE ANNOTATED A TALE OF TWO CITIES, a guide to the classic novel. Happy to describe herself as an "insufferable knowitall" about historical trivia (although she lost on Jeopardy!), Susanne has been writing about and researching eighteenth-century and revolutionary France for nearly three decades. She is currently working on the sequel to THE EXECUTIONER'S HEIR and various nonfiction projects. Her latest book is the travel guide THE WEIRDER SIDE OF PARIS.

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

9 Brumaire, Year V of the Republic
(October 30, 1796)

Aristide did not often set foot in the Place de Grève. It was an ill-omened place, the Golgotha of Paris, the site of uncounted butcheries across five centuries, and he loathed public executions.

He shivered and cast a fleeting glance toward the guillotine, waiting high above the heads of the crowd, as the sharp breeze of a Parisian October whipped lank dark hair into his eyes. Perhaps,he brooded, not for the first time, he was oversensitive for a man who worked for the police. Police officials, his friend and employer Brasseur among them, did their duty and washed their hands of the affair, leaving the rest to the Criminal Tribunal and the public prosecutor. But the police and the law courts, he thought, in their determined efforts to maintain order in a city still unsettled after seven years of revolutionary upheaval, could sometimes be wrong.

He elbowed his way onward, through the clamorous crowd of errand boys in smocks, domestics in shabby castoff finery, and craftsmen in work aprons who slouched about, playing truant from their trades for half an hour's free entertainment. The muddy square between the city hall and the Seine swarmed with spectators, pushing, joking. Here and there a spruce bourgeois or stylish incroyable, flaunting the exaggerated fashions of the season, blossomed like a hothouse flower amid the weeds. Though Aristide wore no tricolor sash, the mark of a police inspector or commissaire, they made way for him, reluctantly parting ranks before the austere black suit that instantly placed him among such traditional dignitaries as police, civil servants, ormagistrates.

He shouldered his way through the spectators until he could push no farther against the eager, humming barricade of bodies. He could see well enough; he stood half a head taller than most of his neighbors. The guillotine loomed above him against the leaden sky like a doorway to nowhere. Two men, silently overseen by a third in a fashionable black frock coat and tall hat, hovered about it, brisk and impassive, tightening ropes, testing moving parts, greasing grooves and hinges. Aristide offered a silent prayer of thanks that at least the guillotine was far swifter and gentler than the punishment meted out to murderers and bandits in the decades before the Revolution.

The crowd stirred and muttered, growing bored with idling. A few fights broke out. Rough-voiced street peddlers sold rolls, oranges, vinegar-water, hot chocolate, and cheap brandy.

A pair of mounted gendarmes appeared at the edge of the square. Behind them creaked the executioner's cart and the murmur grew into an uproar. Those who often attended such free public entertainment self-importantly pointed out the approaching actors: there the attending priest in civilian costume; there the old executioner, come out of retirement for the day, Old Sanson who had topped the king, and Danton, and Robespierre, and so many others, in those disagreeable years 1793 and 1794; there his assistants. Young Sanson, the new master executioner, they told one another, was already waiting on the scaffold: a good-looking, well-made young fellow, wasn't he?

In the cart a splash of crimson, a smock the color of blood. The central performers of the show stood between executioner and priest. One of the three condemned men had fainted and was lying nearly out of sight in the bottom of the cart.

A shout pierced the crowd's babble.

"I am guilty!"

The man in the crimson smock leaned forward across the cart's rail, straining at his guard's tight grip on his bound arms.

"I am guilty, citizens! But Lesurques is innocent!"

"That's Courriol," said someone in the crowd, "one of the bandits...."

Aristide swallowed and squeezed his hands together behind his back as a chill crept from the pit of his stomach to the center of his chest. When even a confessed killer insisted upon his comrade's innocence...

The second man stood erect in the cart, his pale, youthful face betraying neither fear nor hope. His fair hair was cropped short for the blade, but unlike his companion, he wore no red shirt, the emblem of a condemned murderer; waistcoat, culotte, shirt cut open at the neck--all were spotless white.

Absence of the usual formalities betrayed some belated sympathy on the public prosecutor's part. What must it be like, Aristide wondered, to live in doubt, to have to ask yourself for the rest of your life whether, in the performance of your duty, you had condemned an innocent man?

"Lesurques is innocent!" Courriol repeated. His crimson smock fluttered in the wind. "I am guilty!"

The cart creaked to a stop before the scaffold. Above, Young Sanson waited silently, hands at his sides, ignoring the wind's bite.

A raindrop stung Aristide's cheek. Mathieu had died on just such a day as this, he recalled, a bleak autumn morning with a cold, leaden sky and spattering rain. Three years ago...the last day of October 1793. Perhaps under the same steel blade. He closed his eyes for an instant at the touch of another cold drop.

The assistant executioners lowered the cart's tailboard and lugged the unconscious man up the narrow steps. Carefully impassive, they strapped him to the plank and slid it forward beneath the blade. The wooden collar clapped down over his neck. Young Sanson stepped to the machine's right-hand upright and tugged at a lever.

Aristide blinked. Did anyone ever see the blade in the midst of its fall? Yet there it hung, at rest at the bottom of the uprights, smeared with glistening red, and blood was weeping between the boards of the scaffold onto the sawdust below.

"I am guilty! Lesurques is innocent!" shouted Courriol as hands reached for him and swung him down from the cart. He struggled a moment, twisting about to shout once again to the crowd as the executioners marched him toward the waiting plank. "Lesurques is innocent!"

Aristide watched, motionless. Here, at least, simple justice had taken its course. But God help us all, he thought, if the criminal court has condemned a blameless man.

"Lesurques is--"

The crowd grew silent as Lesurques climbed the steps. Upon reaching the platform, he paused.

"I am innocent of this crime. May God forgive my judges as I have forgiven them."

For the third time, the great blade scraped and thudded home.

Aristide thrust his way past the gawkers and paused at the edge of the square, gasping for breath. At last he found an upturned skiff on the riverside and dropped down on it, elbows on knees, staring into the murky shallows of the Seine. Had the police he worked for, so determined to keep the peace, instead been so horribly wrong?

He clasped cold hands before him, shivering suddenly, not from the chill river breeze alone. Men made mistakes; it was the natural way of things. Impossible that you would never make a mistake, accuse wrongly, perhaps unwittingly destroy a life...

He sat brooding a while longer, watching the stray raindrops ripple across the river as it slid silently past. Forget this, he told himself at last. You can do nothing about it. Even if you could somehow learn the truth, and clear his name, he will still be beyond help. There is nothing you can do. He sighed, pushed himself to his feet, and turned his steps westward along the quay, letting the walk and the chill breeze calm him.

Like a great ship, the Île de la Cité‚ parted the river, the cathedral at one end of the island and the Law Courts at the other. As Aristide passed along the shore of the Right Bank, the brooding medieval towers of the Conciergerie, the ancient prison attached to the courts, caught and held his gaze. All his misgivings returned in a rush.

What if I, too, in my time, have sent innocent men to that place, and even to the executioner?

Copyright © 2006 by Susanne Alleyn

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Game of Patience 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 4 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
'Game of Patience' opens in 1796 post revolutionary Paris. A police 'investigator' (as he prefers to be called, rather than an informer or a spy) by the name of Aristide Ravel is called upon to assist in solving a double murder case. The two victims, an extortionist named Saint-Ange, and a respectable young woman, Celie Montereau, at first appear to have no connection. As Ravel begins his investigation searching for clues and interogating witnesses, he unravels a case far more complicated than what he originally suspected. The synopsis I just gave barely touches upon the plot of the book, but as is the case with many mysteries, its tough to give an accurate overview without giving away the story. To avoid spoiling the entire book for any potential readers, we'll just leave it at that, and focus on my opinions of the work. It took me a while to warm up to this story. The language is a bit rough for those of us who don't speak a word of French. Not that there is an overwhelming amount of French vocabulary included in the story, but rather its the foreign names and places that are involved in the plot that I got hung up on. It's hard (for me at least) to envision a place that I can't envision pronouncing accurately. Once I got past that however, I got sucked into a who done it murder mystery that had me pretty baffled until the end. Alleyn is an expert on French history and culture, that much is blatantly obvious from reading this book. She weaves her knowledge in skillfully, and is able to transport her readers to another place and time as they read. One that to many readers, is completely new and alien, yet they will quickly begin to feel at home there, as I did. There are several characters that we become intimately acquainted with throughout the story a few are quite endearing, while others are basically revolting. Without giving much away, I do have to say that the ending of this book is one of the most satisfying endings I've read in a while. All loose ends are wrapped up into a tight bow, and all unanswered questions are at last explained. The reasoning and logic included at the end of the story make the entire book worthwhile...its a perfect ending to an all around good read.
harstan More than 1 year ago
In 1796 Paris, undercover police spy, investigator Aristide Ravel and his superior Commissaire Brasseur, investigate the murders of property landlord Jean-Louis Saint-Ange and his former lover, Célie Montereau in a chic apartment owned by the former. Aristide quickly learns that no one misses Jean-Louis with many rejoicing at his death because he was a nasty sort blackmailing aristocrat the blackguard even extorted money from Celie, who was his lover. --- An interrogation of Célie's acrimonious friend Rosalie Clément leads Aristide to Philippe Aubry, a violent man who allegedly loved the female victims, but he has an airtight alibi. At the same time to his chagrin, Aristide begins to fall in love with Rosalie, though he has not totally ruled her out as abetting the killer by hiding much of what she knows from him and Brasseur. Aristide keeps digging as he knows Brasseur plans to send Rosalie ton a date with Madame Guillotine. --- This is a tremendous post-revolution but pre Napoleon taut French police procedural starring a hero with a bothered conscience because he knows he sent innocent people to the guillotine. The who-done-it is cleverly devised so that the audience obtains a deep look at 1796 Paris yet never slows down the pace of the investigation. Still this tale belongs to Aristide, who believes his past prevents him from a future filled with love that is if he can figure out who his rancorous beloved protects. Fans will also want to read the delightful homage to Dickens, A FAR BETTER REST --- Harriet Klausner
Unreachableshelf on LibraryThing 7 days ago
The first in a series about Aristide Ravel, an "investigator" for the police- not an inspector, not exactly a spy although there are plenty of people who call him that. As a historical novel, it's a good read, tightly paced and yet ful of detail. As a mystery, it has some flaws in the sense that there are a couple of "revelations," one involving a child and one involving a woman who commits murders while dressed like a man, which are clear to the reader long before Ravel or the police understand, even though we are working from the same facts. Regarding the one that involves the child, I actually thought Ravel and the police already knew and just weren't talking about it directly until it got to the scene when they did realize the truth. However, it is interesting reading the exact hows and whys: I just can't give full marks to a mystery where the detective misses things that have been staring the audience in the face all along.A couple of nit-picky things. I know the author can't be blamed for the blurb on the flap, but did the person who did write that copy have to include events that happen more than halfway into the book?Also: Ravel sets off my gaydar, and I don't think it's intentional. It's possible that the cover blurb was wrong in suggesting that he was going to fall for Rosalie (because I certainly never saw it in the actual book: Ravel isn't a first-person narrator, but it's pretty clearly his head that the third-person narrator is in, and I didn't really pick up anything sexual or romantic in the fascination he has with her), but there's still a passing mention, over a hundred pages in, of a night that he spent with his landlady once. That's the only reference to his sex life, and he still kind of comes off as gay. The most passionate friendship he ever seems to have had was with a man who was guillotined in 1793. Again, there are no references to women in his past except for one night with the landlady. Observations of male beauty equal, and probably outnumber, observations of the female variety. He tries to prove Rosalie's innocence once it looks like she may have committed the double murder at the center of the plot, but he tries to prove everybody's innocence once they've been charged. He doesn't feel jealous of her lover once he reappears, just awkward at being the third wheel. If he were supposed to be gay, that would be a pretty interesting choice, but I get the impression that he's not, and if a character is coming off as gay when he's not supposed to be, then that's a problem. It could be in my head, but I doubt I'd be the only one.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago