March 1814. With the armies of Russia and Prussia advancing, Paris is in real danger of falling to occupying forces for the first time in 400 years.But at a moment when all efforts should be directed towards the defence of the city, Joseph Bonaparte is concerned with the murder of a retired colonel, and orders Major Margont to conduct a secret investigation into his death. Once again Armand Cabasson marries his phenomenal knowledge of the Napoleonic period with his psychiatric expertise to create a gripping and totally convincing narrative.
Set in 1814, Cabasson's exceptional third Napoleonic Murders whodunit (after Wolf Hunt) finds Bonaparte's depleted forces reeling as the allies advance on Paris. Against that dramatic backdrop, the emperor's self-important older brother, Joseph, believes that royalists plan to murder key members of the team charged with defending the city. The first victim, Colonel Berle, was working at home on a proposal for Joseph to "transform the mound at Montmartre into an impregnable redoubt." Besides torturing and mutilating Berle, his assassin left behind a royalist emblem, a "white rosette with a medallion in the middle decorated with a fleur-de-lis in the shape of an arrowhead crossed with a sword" known as the Swords of the King. Joseph orders Lt. Col. Quentin Margont to infiltrate the royalist movement and identify the killer as well as discover the plotters' broader schemes. Cabasson ratchets up the tension masterfully as both the investigation and the assault on the city near their end. The intricate storytelling and sophisticated character development make this one of the best historical mysteries of recent years.