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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars PAGES BROUGHT TO LIFE BY APT DESCRIPTIONS, 1 Jan 2011
Gail Cooke (TX, USA) - See all my reviews
A childhood fascination with the French Revolution which grew into a life long exploration of that subject has become a boon for readers of historical fiction with Susanne Alleyn's Aristide Ravel series. The fourth story to feature Ravel is deemed by many to be her best, and we tend to agree.

It is the autumn of 1793 when Paris is torn asunder by fear, hunger, and distrust Madame Guillotine is kept busy - beheading the Queen as well as any and all who run afoul of the Revolutionary Tribunal for even the most minor infractions. At the same time a headless corpse is discovered - "The woman lay on her back in a narrow alley a few steps beyond the Palais-Egalite, sprawled in a great splash of her own blood...." It is not known who she is, perhaps a woman who has fallen on hard times as have so many. Police agent Ravel is asked to investigate her death.

Just as he is beginning to try to trace the woman he learns of a similar murder, another headless corpse and then another. Most puzzling of all is the fact that there is absolutely no connection between those killed. It soon becomes obvious that the city is being terrorized by a serial killer, someone who murders at random, but why?

Alleyn is such an apt student of French history that her pages come alive with pinpoint descriptions of streets, places, and dress. She adroitly captures the tenor of that time as she takes readers on an intriguing chase to a satisfying finish.

- Gail Cooke
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Alleyn is a remarkable writer, 8 Dec 2010
L. J. Roberts (Oakland, CA, USA) - See all my reviews
First Sentence: "God help me," Désirée said to herself, as she tried to ignore the dull, persistent ache of her empty stomach, "I cannot even earn a living as a whore."

While the guillotine is hard at work in Paris, someone is performing their own executions. Seemingly random victims of beheadings are being found in Paris. Aristide Revel, an investigator for the police, is concerned about the fate of his arrested friends, including one from childhood. In the meantime, he must find a killer.

Having read, and loved, all the other books so far in this series, I was concerned about whether this book, second chronologically yet fourth published, would seem out of place and, somehow, less significant since those of us who have read the other books know the outcome of some of the events taking place here. I need not have worried.

I appreciated the information included in the Preface and the glossary of Terms. Alleyn includes relevant historical information on both the geography of Paris and the Revolution. However, at its core, the book is an excellent police procedural. The story begins, sans prologue thank you, in a way that both touches your emotions yet shocks your senses.

The characters are interesting and fully dimensional. Aristide is fully developed, not only by description, but by habits and ethics. He is a complex character, dedicated to justice in a time of great injustice, judicial murder and the debasement of the law. I like the relationship between Aristide and Brasseur, his boss. How refreshing that it is supportive rather than the clichéd adversarial. The inclusion of Sanson, the master executioner and a real person from history adds veracity. Alleyn skillfully takes someone with an appalling job and humanizes them to the point where you feel respect, or at least sympathy and admiration, for his bringing as much compassion and professionalism to his position as possible.

The plot is very well done. On a high level, one could draw a parallel between the period of the book and today with the chasm between the wealthy and those who are not; the disassociation of the powerful minority from the working class and poor majority. On a story level, Alleyn is excellent at creating tension points throughout the story. It does not quite earn a rating of excellent as I did perceive the villain and there was one large, convenient coincidence. However, these minor flaws were offset by a very dramatic, emotions scene so painful, I wept.

Susanne Alleyn is a remarkable writer. This book surpassed my expectations and I loved it. It wasn't always an emotionally easy book, but it was an exceptional book and one I recommend. May there be many more books to come.

PALACE OF JUSTICE (Pol Proc-Aristide Revel-Paris-1793) - VG+
Alleyn, Susanne (4th published in series - 2nd chronologically)
Minotaur Books, 2010, ARC - Hardcover ISBN: 9780312379896
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