The Missing Italian Girl

Written by Barbara Corrado Pope
Review by Ellen Keith

Although the book is billed as third in the Bernard Martin mystery series, the lead character is Bernard’s wife, Clarie. In late 19th-century Paris, Clarie, a teacher at the prestigious girls’ school, the Lycée Lamartine, faces an appeal from charwoman Francesca: help her daughters, Angela and Maura. Bernard, an advocate for the rights of the working man, shows less compassion for the rights of downtrodden working women, so Clarie must aid Francesca and her family surreptitiously.

The mystery itself—two murders and accusations of anarchism—is less compelling than the description of multiple Parises. Clarie lives in a deceptive Paris, one where she has a career, but those who proclaim their allegiance to equality are blind to women’s rights. Francesca and her daughters live in squalid Paris, where the poor are exploited and treated as less than human. Bernard lives in a suspicious Paris where his defense of unionized workers means that they are automatically assumed to be anarchists. In the end, I was less interested in whodunit and why than where Clarie and her husband would go from here. If this is an anomaly in the Bernard Martin series—Clarie as protagonist—let there be more anomalies.