A Man in Uniform

Written by Kate Taylor
Review by Trudi E. Jacobson

Maître Dubon, a civil lawyer in Paris, is visited by the mysterious Madame Duhamel, who says she is looking out for the interests of a friend, the wife of Captain Dreyfus. It has been two years since Dreyfus had been tried for treason in 1894, convicted, and deported, but Madame Duhamel and the family believe that he is innocent. Dubon is puzzled as to why he has been approached. A detective seems to be called for, or at least a criminal lawyer. True, as a junior lawyer, Dubon had represented Communards following the Franco-Prussian War, but that was long in the past.

Madame Duhamel and her request for assistance turn Dubon’s life inside out. He finds himself less inclined to visit his mistress, an integral part of his daily routine, and after he manages to infiltrate the office from which the evidence against Dreyfus was produced, he even shows up at his own office far less often. His wife feels that any work Dubon undertakes should reflect well in the eyes of society, so he experiences tensions at home as well.

Taylor, who wrote the superb Mme Proust and the Kosher Kitchen, with its own story set during the time of the Dreyfus affair, transports readers into late 19th-century Paris, allowing us to see the machinations behind Dreyfus’s denunciation. Two of Mme. Dubon’s brothers are in the Army, and they help to provide a context for the case, as does Maître Dubon’s work in an office responsible for spying. My only quibble is the lack of a historical note at the end of the book: I would have loved to know what was real and what was created. Regardless, I recommend this book very highly.