The Whispering of Bones
When Jesuit Charles du Luc and his elderly confessor stumble upon a corpse in an ancient Parisian crypt in 1687, the shock fells the older man. Du Luc, who has assisted the Parisian police before, desperately wants to help with this investigation too, but his superiors forbid it – he’s already attracted too much attention to himself when he assisted the police in earlier cases. Louis VIV overrules the superiors, a good thing since the deaths may be connected with an anti-Jesuit conspiracy. A banned and libelous book Monita Secreta, a kind of Protocols of the Elders of Zion, with Jesuits instead of Jews as targets, is back in circulation in Paris. Is there a connection with the murders?
Du Luc, despite being a guilt-ridden former soldier, is likable and sane, living in a Parisian world that comes alive with details and color. The author’s work for her Ph.D. in art and theology took place in part in Paris, where she researched the early ballets produced at the Jesuit College of Louis le Grand. (Jesuits and ballet!) She not only read the 17th-century French version of the Monita Secreta at Paris’s Mazarine Library, she also read what passed as the newspapers of 1687. In an afterword, Rock writes that the Mazarine librarian climbed a ladder to retrieve the newspaper (actually a bound book) from a high shelf, bringing it to her along with a “weighted silk cord for holding the fragile pages down without damaging them while I read… I was moved almost to tears. I was holding a tiny piece of 1687 Paris in my hands.”
I found the book to be meaningful, insightful, funny, and suspenseful. It’s a delight to find this kind of intelligent, well-researched historical novel, and even more gratifying to know that it’s part of a series. Recommended.