The Blood of Lorraine
Pope continues her story of French magistrate Bernard Martin, begun in Cezanne’s Quarry. Martin is now living in Nancy where he is a judge at the Palais de Justice. Anti-Semitic sentiment is running high in France with the arrest and trial for treason of Captain Alfred Dreyfus in Paris.
In the midst of this tension, Martin is given the murder investigation of a baby who has been found killed and gutted. His wet nurse and parents claim it was done by a Jewish tinker as part of a religious ritual. Evidence points in a different direction, and Martin needs to solve this crime quickly before the public can be worked into a Jew-hating frenzy. Unfortunately, the babe’s death is followed by the murder of two Jewish citizens. Martin must balance this crisis at work with an evolving crisis at home: his wife Clarie, pregnant with their first child, goes into an early labor. The babe is born, weak and sickly.
The stories of Martin’s work life and home life run side-by-side, following similar themes. The murder investigation is a tangle of exotic characters, overt and elusive motives and confused philosophies. The case forces Martin to consider what it means to be a Jew and what it means to be a French citizen. In the home story, Clarie’s response to her crisis is not what one hopes from a strong, rational person. The alteration of her personality is engaging, but the way this subplot is resolved seems rushed.
In The Blood of Lorraine, Pope captures the setting of France and the thinking of the French people at the end of the 19th century. The pages bleed with the frustration rational people feel when faced with religious fanaticism and hatred.