Historical fiction can take you back in time to other eras, and historical mysteries can take you back in time while you stay up late trying to find out “who did it.” “Staying up late” is exactly what happened to me when I read The Eloquence of Blood by Judith Rock. This historical mystery combines interesting characters (both real-life and imagined), an intriguing murder-mystery, and wonderful historical details into a book that was hard for me to put down. It is set in Paris in 1686—the Paris of the people, not the Paris of the glittering court of Louis XIV. The hero and detective is Charles du Lac, a former soldier, who is studying for the Jesuit priesthood and is a teacher at the Louis le Grand, a Jesuit school for boys.
Despite being part of the Jesuit holdings, the school could use an infusion of funds and there is a rumor that a bequest to the school from the Mynette family will become available. While on a visit to a local family, Charles du Lac meets Martine, a young woman who also has a claim on the same inheritance, though the papers proving her claim as an adopted daughter have gone missing. The next day Martine is found murdered. Her murder incites anti-Jesuit sentiments and protests against the school.
Father Le Picart, head of the school, asks Charles to help the police discover the murderer. While the motivation of Le Picart is to preserve the school’s and the Jesuits’ reputations, Charles’ motivation is to find justice for a murdered young woman. During Charles’ journey to find the killer, he encounters quite of range of Parisian society, from respectable and not-so-respectable businessmen to street people begging on every corner. One of the real-life characters in the book is Nicolas de La Reynie, the first head of the Paris police, with whom Charles develops a friendship.
As a student of dance history, I especially enjoyed reading about the Jesuits and their role in the development of Baroque dance (the beginnings of modern ballet). The Jesuits believed in developing both the minds and the bodies of their students and dance was considered essential training for future gentlemen. Their students regularly participated in productions featuring music, choral works, drama, and dance.
The Eloquence of Blood is Rock’s second book featuring Charles du Lac. His first adventure is The Rhetoric of Death. I haven’t read the first book yet, but that did not diminish my enjoyment or cause any confusion by reading The Eloquence of Blood first. I’m looking forward to reading the first book as well as Charles’ future adventures!
Check the WRL catalog for The Eloquence of Blood