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In her historic mysteries The Rhetoric of Death and The Eloquence of Blood, Judith Rock created an atmosphere that "takes you back to fascinating and dangerous seventeenth-century Paris so well that I suspect her of being a time-traveler who's been there" (Ariana Franklin, national bestselling author of A Murderous Procession). Now, the latest novel to feature Charles du Luc finds the ex-soldier-turned-Jesuit caught up in royal intrigue...
Madame de Maintenon is King Louis XIV’s second wife. The daughter of a minor noble of ill-repute, she has not forgiven the king's Jesuit confessor for encouraging him to withhold the title of Queen from her. To placate her, the prestigious Louis le Grand Jesuit school has sent a delegation—including her distant cousin Pere Jouvancy and rhetoric teacher Charles du Luc—to Versailles with a gift of reliquary.
But while the Sun King’s palace might be spectacular, this visit is anything but pleasant. Their first night, a courtier dies, and court whispers claim poison. Then the Jesuit delegation falls direly ill, and a palace gardener is found murdered. Fear grips a court already on edge. In the midst of all this, Charles learns that one of his students is in love with the king’s rebellious (and betrothed) daughter, and may ruin not only himself, but all of them …
In Rock's fine third 17th-century historical featuring Paris rhetoric teacher Charles de Luc (after 2011's The Eloquence of Blood), Charles and his mentor, P re Joseph Jouvancy, transport a reliquary to Versailles, a gift to the king's unofficial second wife, Madame de Maintenon, to gain her support for the Society of Jesus at Louis XIV's court. Soon after their arrival, the Comte de Fleury, a sadistic military commander with whom Charles has been at odds, dies after an accidental tumble down some stairs. Before long, the palace is roiled by rumors that de Fleury was poisoned, and that the poisoner has other victims in mind. A clear case of murder by blunt instrument also concerns Charles, who must do his detecting in an especially intense political atmosphere. Diligent research allows Rock to seamlessly blend her fictional additions to the time of the Sun King with the historical record.