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Mute Witness [Hardcover]

Charles O'Brien


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Book Description

31 Mar 2007
Picture the Scarlet Pimpernell as a woman dealing with murder before the Terror made heads roll.

Its the eve of the French Revolution. Fiscal crisis and social tensions brew. Anne Cartier, a headstrong young vaudeville actress at Sadler's Wells company in London hears terrible news. Her stepfather, the actor Antoine Dubois has mysteriously died in Paris. The official verdict: he killed his mistress, then himself. Anne enlists the aid of Colonel Paul de Saint-Martin and his adjutant Georges Charpentier of the royal highway patrol. But, in her search for truth, Anne befriends a deaf, illiterate seamstress with a talent for puppetry who gives Anne an entre into the Palais Royale. Her quest further confronts her with an amateur theatrical society of dissolute young noblemen; a tormented female botanist; a sadistic aesthete; a rich, well-connected financier; a professional assassin.

Unravelling the mystery tests Anne's nerve as well as her remarkable acrobatic skills. At a critical juncture in the investigation, she acts the part of an exotic queen in Indian costume at a reception. Priceless Indian jewelry disappears. Its owner, an aged count is murdered. And a venal police inspector threatens to derail Anne's project.

The story rises to a violent climax in a vast limestone caveoutside Paris where the city has begun to bury its dead. Historian O'Brien's debut novel is elegantly written as befits the times and explores borders between countries and between layers of society. Few have chosen to place a crime novel here. O'Brien makes us wonder why.


Product details

  • Hardcover: 325 pages
  • Publisher: Poisoned Pen Press; US ed edition (31 Mar 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1890208620
  • ISBN-13: 978-1890208622
  • Product Dimensions: 22.2 x 14.8 x 2.7 cm
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 2,816,348 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

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Product Description

About the Author

Charles O'Brien resides in Williamstown, Massachusetts, with his wife, Elvy. He earned a Ph.D. in History from Columbia University and went on to teach history for thirty years before turning to historical mystery fiction fulltime.

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Customer Reviews

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Amazon.com: 4.2 out of 5 stars  10 reviews
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Interesting history, coincidence solves the mystery 28 Nov 2001
By booksforabuck - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
When she learns of her stepfather's death, Anne Cartier joins handsome Colonel Paul De Saint-Martin in a trip to Paris. She is certain that he could not be guilty of the murder and suicide that the French officials have accused him of. Once in Paris, however, Anne learns that her stepfather's death is part of a larger scheme--a scheme involving some of the most important men in Ancien Regime France and huge thefts of precious jems and art works.
Through a repeated series of lucky coincidences, Anne, a teacher of the deaf, discovers a secret witness to the murder her stepfather was accused of, narrowly averts being abducted into a sadists lair, and discovers the secrets of the jewel thefts that shock all of France. Despite a complete unwillingness to take any precautions, Anne somehow manages to survive, eventually uncovering the full magnitude of the plot.
Author Charles O'Brien has set his historical mystery, MUTE WITNESS in the fascinating time immediately before the French Revolution. France continues to reel under the debt load it took on in its efforts to help America win its independence and is held hostage by bankers with ever-greater power. Thomas Jefferson walks the streets of Paris and Voltaire, Rousseau, and the other intellectual giants of the enlightenment are remembered firsthand.
Underdeveloped characters and a string of lucky coincidences marr a novel that shows real promise.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Very well written 19 May 2001
By Harriet Klausner - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
In 1785, France is predominantly a two-class society with the frivolous aristocracy running roughshod over the common folk and the small bourgeoisie. Nowhere is that more indicative than the so-called justice system where very little evidence is needed to throw a peasant in jail. The privileged hide behind their wealth and position to stop any charges being brought against them.

The alleged murder-suicide case of Antoine Dubois and Lelia La Plante is based on skimpy circumstantial evidence to draw such a conclusion. Antoine's stepdaughter Anne rejects the official position. At the invitation of Countess Maria she comes to France accompanied by her nephew Colonel Paul de Saint Martin of the Royal Highway Patrol. Marie confides in Anne that there is more to Antoine's death than a simple suicide. Working together with Maria and Paul, Anne goes undercover where she begins to find proof that a double murder occurred. As she steps closer to the truth, several influential people want her to end her investigation or they will dispatch her just as they did her stepfather.

Charles O'Brien uses the fictional narrative to show why the wide gap in class structure led to the revolution. The historical background allows the clever story line to easily flow over it. The heroine refuses to back down from her quest to obtain the truth. Before they realize it, readers are flowing along with the absorbing plot that makes MUTE WITNESS a riveting historical mystery.

Harriet Klausner
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Started strong, but then... 4 Aug 2012
By plum9195 - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition
Started strong, but then became full of stereotypes. Was hoping for more mystery and less standard issue "ya know what is going to happen in the end" romance.
4.0 out of 5 stars 18th Century France 7 July 2009
By Lyn Reese - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Here the reader is transported back to England and France, principally Paris and its environs, on the eve of the French Revolution. Anne Cartier, an English music hall entertainer who has become a teacher to the deaf in Paris, begins the dangerous task of tracking down the mysterious death of her beloved stepfather, Antoine. The aristocratic Colonel Paul de Saint-Martin, whose family she knew as a child, aids her in this effort as she enters the decadent world of the French aristocracy and ambitious merchants who callously treat the classes below them with contempt. Throughout there are brief indications of the looming storms of revolution, most vividly expressed by Saint-Martin who questions the concept of "noble privilege."

O'Brien gives us glimpses of Parisian theater life, helping to explain Anne's unconventional spirit and acrobatic feats as she more than once puts herself in danger while trying to uncover the true culprits. Her actions seem a bit unreal for the time, and more could have been made of the lives of ordinary Parisians. But there are many bits of interesting historical accurate information here. Among them is Anne's association with France's deaf institute. Also note the Royal Highway Patrol, references to various luminaries such as Thomas Jefferson, Marie Antoinette, and Voltaire, and the influence of enlightenment beliefs and the Masonic Lodge. Laudably, the low status of actresses in Anne's time is indicated. But given this, the indications of a potential marriage between Anne and the Colonel seem improbable. A love affair yes, a marriage most likely no.

The book includes a map of 1786 Paris and an author's afternote. This is the first of three books featuring Anne Cartier.
4.0 out of 5 stars Hoping for More 13 Aug 2001
By Greta Frankel - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
A deftly woven web of intrigue that unfolds in 18th century London and Paris. The heroine's sensitivity to and training in the needs of the deaf enable her to win the confidence of a frightened mute witness to a crime and solve the mystery of her stepfather's death.
The vivid background descriptions capture the ambience of the period and pull the reader right into the settings. The cobblestone streets, the elegant castle interiors, the lush landscapes spring to life before the mind's eye.
O'Brien's erudition leaves its imprint in the authenticity of the novel's historical context; the social injustices of the time and even international politics are interwoven in the plot.
The budding romance between the strong-willed heroine and a chivalrous nobleman is allowed to develop just far enough to whet the reader's curiosity about how their relationship fares. One hopes for a sequel!
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