The Black Tower
Morrow, Aug 2008, $24.95
In 1818 Paris, Surete Detective Eugene Francois Vidocq investigates the murder of Monsieur Chrétien Leblanc found dead on the street. Searching the victim’s pocket, Vidocq finds a note inside with the name and address of Professor Hector Charpentier of Ecole de Medecine. The sleuth visits Hector to ask why Leblanc wanted to see him. The Doctor offers nothing insisting he does not know the victim and why he needed to see him; or anything in his own defense as an alibi as he has no family and few friends although he swears he is innocent.
As Vidocq keeps digging deeper into the murder, he begins to find a strange thread that goes back to the Revolution. Somehow the deceased is tied back to Prince Louis-Charles, the heir to the French throne, who was allegedly executed in THE BLACK TOWER in Thermidor Year II; or did the Lost Dauphin, who would have been King Louis XVII with the current Bourbon Restoration, somehow survive and is one of these royal pretenders.
In some ways THE BLACK TOWER is a historical fiction novel that delves into whether any of the seemingly scoundrels claiming the throne could be the Lost Dolphin who allegedly was executed as a ten year old child. The murder mystery ties back to the heir, but also takes a back seat to 1818 France as the Bourbons are back on the throne following the defeat of Napoleon. Vidocq is a terrific sleuth (he is a real person who created the Surete) as his homicide investigation in which Charpentier is the prime suspect turns into much more in Louis Bayard’s superb early nineteenth century French thriller.