Paris, 1796. Police agent Aristide Ravel must find the murderer of an aristocratic young woman and her blackmailer. Aristide's investigation leads him through the feverish, decadent society of postrevolutionary France, into a puzzle involving hidden secrets, crimes of passion, and long-nurtured hatreds.
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After A Far Better Rest (2000), an homage to Dickens's A Tale of Two Cities, Alleyn returns to postrevolutionary Paris in her second novel, a taut police procedural. In the fall of 1796, police spy Aristide Ravel, who's haunted by fears that he has helped send dozens of innocent victims to the guillotine, and his employer, Commissaire Brasseur, investigate the slaying of Jean-Louis Saint-Ange, a property owner who lived on his rents, and Saint-Ange's ex-lover, CÚlie Montereau. Saint-Ange had apparently been extorting money from aristocratic families, and few, including his colorful porter, Grangier, mourn his demise. Despite qualms about "mistakenly being the cause of a man's death," Aristide dutifully interviews anxious former associates of CÚlie and her well-to-do parents in search of the truth. Full of authentic historical detail, ranging from the rise of General Bonaparte to the antics of flamboyant incroyables, the story builds to an emotionally charged climax in which Aristide reveals painful secrets from his own past.

Publishers Weekly

Alleyn brought revolutionary-era France to life vividly in her debut novel, A Far Better Rest (2000), a reimagining of Dickens' A Tale of Two Cities, and she revisits the era in this mystery. Aristide Ravel, an associate of the police force, is called in when Louis Saint-Ange, a man of means but questionable repute, is found murdered alongside a young woman. At first Ravel and his associate, Commissaire Brasseur, focus on Saint-Ange, a blackmailer with dirt on many upper-class denizens, but when they identify the girl as Celie Montereau, a young woman from a wealthy family, they begin to dig into the girl's past only to discover she bore an illegitimate child and had a clandestine lover. Ravel and Brasseur track the young man, but even as the evidence mounts against him, Ravel fears he might be innocent and loathes the idea of convicting an innocent man in an climate that has already seen so much bloodshed. Grounded by a complex, haunted hero, the suspense in this layered mystery builds slowly but reaches a breakneck speed.


It is 1796 in a Paris trying to regain some semblance of order after the Reign of Terror (1793-94). Aristide Ravel investigates major crimes for his friend Police Commissaire Brasseur. Already doubting the justice system that is in place, Ravel must delve into the double murders of a young girl from a wealthy family and a man blackmailing her. The story plays out like the card game of patience with Ravel finding one way to sort out the facts of the case and then shuffling them in another way to reach an entirely different conclusion. This is a true puzzle mystery, with the detective reexamining the facts several times until the solution is found. Alleyn knows her French Revolution, creates a complex brain-teaser of a mystery, and excels in making her characters believable. In short, this book has everything; recommended.

Library Journal