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The Phantom of Rue Royale
(Nicolas Le Floch #3)
In full compliance with FTC Guidelines,
|The Phantom of Rue Royale
By Jean-François Parot
Translated by Howard Curtis
Publisher: Gallic Books
US Pub. Date: November 11, 2014
Originally published in French in 2002
ISBN: 978-1906040154Pages: PB, 368
Genre: Historical mystery
= also available as ebook
This book counts for the following Reading Challenges:
MY THOUGHTS ABOUT THIS BOOK
Gallic Books, who offer “The best of French in English” as their motto says, have graciously mailed me the third book in this series, which will be released in four days!
Is there anything more enjoyable than a historical murder mystery, where you combine the excitement of suspense and the wealth of historical details? The Phantom of Rue Royale is exactly that, in a perfected way.
Assassination has recently been attempted on old King Louis XV, so security has been tightened. Police commissioner Nicolas Le Floch is stressed and tired, as he is in charge of keeping close watch on the royal family on the occasion of the wedding of the Dauphin with Marie-Antoinette.
Huge crowds are converging on place Louis XV for fireworks, and no real safety measures have been taken by the City Guards.
And Nicolas’ foreboding turns to be true: the fireworks face some technical issue and disaster strikes, with many killed or injured in the panic. As he tries to help, he discovers a young victim bears the signs of strangulation.
The book covers the seven days from the day of the disaster to the final day of the investigation when Nicolas will finally be able to expose what happened to this young woman and why. There are a few references to previous crimes investigated by Nicolas, but not having read them is not a handicap to understand and enjoy this volume.
It is a brilliant mix of historical fiction, of police detective work, of horror novel sometimes and even of comedy, in a very atmospheric work where you can feel the tension, smell the filth as much as the delicious food prepared. Be ready to experience fear, horror, disgust, delight, and excitement, all at the same time.
The sun rising on this grim, bloodstained morning could not dissipate the damp mist which presaged a storm. Paris was shapeless and colorless, apparently finding it hard to awaken from a tragedy that would gradually spread to city and court, districts and faubourgs, and, when it reached Versailles, would cast a shadow over the waking moments of an old king and a young couple.
I enjoyed the background exposing the omnipresent atmosphere of jealousy, whether at court, among rich business families, furriers here, or the different police groups.
Can we talk about Paris and Versailles in the 18th century, or any century for that matter, without mentioning food? Probably not. I felt totally tortured by the description of of the calf’s breast pie, la choucroute de Stransbourg, and several other sumptuous dishes. But on the other hand, a few autopsy scenes are quite graphic.
If I transfer the experience of reading this book on the pictorial level, I could say Parot is like the 18th century literary Bruegel.
State and religion are still very much connected, the King for instance needs to give his permission for an exorcism, and but it’s not a world without superstition either. The world of evil is quite present, with a very respectful and genuine presentation of an exorcist and his work, mind you not à la Hollywood. Still spooky enough!
There’s quite a motley crew of characters, a real slice of life: fishy business men, robbers seizing any chaotic situation to act, prostitutes, stupid good for nothing policemen, and also policemen like Nicolas quoting by heart the Latin classic masters or whistling tunes by Rameau! There’s also Naganda, a fascinating Indian servant coming from New France, son of a shaman, very educated and knowing also classic literature.
And there’s Richelieu (not the Cardinal but his grand-nephew), the old King Louis XV and La Du Barry. There are touching intimate portraits of the king, trying to show him in real daily life far from the gaze of outsiders. Even though we are still twenty-eight years before the French Revolution, opponents of the monarchy are already active, and we find here Restif de la Bretonne and his famous pamphlets.
The suspense of the last two chapters is masterful and almost unbearable, as you slowly manage to put together all the pieces of the jigsaw puzzle with Nicholas.
The day after the end of the investigation, Nicolas finally takes time to deal with one of his personal enemies. It is not unlike a Shakespearean tragedy where you have a funny subplot to release the pressure.
The only reason I don’t give it 5 Eiffel Towers is that sometimes things feel a bit complicated, but I have the feeling this could be due to the translation. I notice the translator is not the one who translated the previous volume. Sometimes, things could have a better flow.
VERDICT: The Phantom of Rue Royale combines elements of historical fiction, police detective work, horror novel and comedy to drag you into the heart of Paris in 1770. The result is a very atmospheric and suspenseful work. Be ready to stay up all night to devour it!
WHAT IS IT ABOUT
Paris is in mourning. At the firework display marking the Dauphin’s marriage to Marie Antoinette, hundreds of people have been injured or crushed to death. Yet not all the victims died accidental…
The tragic incident on Place Louis XV yields a new case for Commissioner Le Floch when a strangled woman is found amongst the other corpses. The investigation takes him to the home of a furrier on Rue Royale where he must deal not just with its curious residents but also face the terrifying forces of the supernatural. [provided by the publisher]
The Phantom of Rue Royale
‘Parot again displays an impressive command of period detail and politics, and uses them to enhance an intricate murder mystery.’ — Publishers Weekly
‘One’s attention is constantly drawn either by the developments of the investigation, the evocation of ancient culinary curiosities, or just by life in 18th century Paris.’ — Emma’s World
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Jean-François Parot is a diplomat and historian.
He is the author of the Nicolas Le Floch mysteries, which take place in eighteenth century France.
The novels, beginning with The Châtelet Apprentice, have been adapted as a successful TV series shown on France 2.
Read an interview with Jean-François Parot.
Visit the website of Jean-François Parot
If you can read French, this website on the whole series is really fantastic, with lots of extra documents.
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