Paris in spring 1788 sees intrepid Anne Cartier and her husband Paul back home after their sojourn in Nice. The crops are failing, and for many young people the only option is to leave the country and seek their fortune in the city. Unfortunately for her this is what Lucie Gigot has done, and now she has vanished. Kindly Aunt Marie wants to find out where her young tenant has got to, and so she hires her nephew and his wife. Her last location was the Palais Royal, in the company of Denis Grimaud, the valet of the notorious Marquis de Bresse.
What is most enjoyable about this series of novels is how the seething political scene bubbles under everything, and this is a tale about the type of corruption that caused the revolution. De Bresse is a follower of the Marquis de Sade, whose exploits are viewed as a sign of the times, and thus the mood of the book is set. Settle back and enjoy a gothic cavalcade of sinister castles, prisons and prostitutes that sums up the era rather well. For whodunit fans this is quite a convoluted case for such a short novel, but I would like it all even better if Paul was more than a cipher who stumps up the money and is keen for his wife to act as an unpaid policewoman. He continues to be more like a kindly—and modern—employer than a husband, and this is surely a rather strange thing even in a morganatic marriage. This gripe aside, it is another engagingly readable entry in an inventive and original series.