The Cavalier of the Apocalypse
The story begins prophetically on All Hallows Eve, 1785, as Aristide Ravel, an impoverished young political writer, wanders into the scene of a fire set in the small Parisian church of St. Médard. In this prequel to Susanne Alleyn’s Game of Patience (2006) and A Treasury of Regrets (2007), it is over the curious pattern of charred debris at the altar of St. Médard’s that Ravel first meets his future cohort, police Inspector Brasseur.
Two months later the curious pattern is repeated in the Churchyard of St. André des Arts, scene of a grizzly murder, the victim unidentified but clearly a wealthy man. Brasseur suspects Ravel and forces him into the role of investigator to avoid arrest. Over a period of eight days the investigation moves non-stop. The corpse, still unidentified, is stolen from the morgue. There are signs of Masonic intrigue and political plots at the highest levels. Ravel’s investigation takes him to the Royal Veterinary School and Honoré Fragonard’s Le Chevalier de l’Apocalypse, his ghoulish écorché masterpiece – a dried, preserved horse and rider – which turns out to be the key to the mystery.
Reading The Cavalier of the Apocalypse is like being in France just before the Revolution. Ms. Alleyn has managed to capture the spirit of the time in the angry squalor of the poor against the backdrop of titled privilege. But the story is not a social commentary – it never stops being a splendid mystery, packed with historical detail, red herrings, surprising twists, and even a little romance. If this is your first Aristide Ravel mystery you will want to dive into the sequels as soon as you can – promise.