BookBrowse Reviews The Black Tower by Louis Bayard

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The Black Tower

by Louis Bayard

The Black Tower
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  • First Published:
    Sep 2008, 368 pages
    Paperback:
    Oct 2009, 384 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Donna Chavez

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Can the mighty and profane Eugène François Vidocq, history’s first great detective, solve this mystery of political intrigue and epic treachery set in 19th century France?

Literary chiaroscurist* Bayard's 1818 Paris, at the peak (or is it the depth?) of the Restoration after the bloody Revolution, comes alive on the page as Eugène François Vidocq, the father of modern police detection, unravels a complex knot of crimes that could ultimately produce Louis-Charles, Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette's young son, long thought to have died while imprisoned in the Black Tower (part of the notorious Temple prison in Paris) in 1795. If the person in question is indeed the lost/reputedly deceased dauphin (heir to the French throne) he could displace King Louis XVIII, threatenign his plans for the future of France.

Needless to say tensions run high as red herring after red herring gets thrown into the path of forensic genius Vidocq. Beginning with the murder of an unidentified man who was killed in an alley not far from the home ...

The French Revolution & Restoration
Most readers will recollect the French Revolution of 1789-1799, during which France was transformed from an absolute monarchy based on feudal principles, with the aristocracy and Catholic clergy at the top of the heap, to a republic of (theoretically) free and equal citizens. But some may have forgotten the more than 80 years that followed that saw two restorations of the monarchy and two additional revolutions before something resembling the France we know today hauled itself out of the rubble. In brief:

  • 1789: The French Revolution begins with the storming of the Bastille.
  • 1792: Louis XVI is tried for treason and convicted; the monarchy is abolished. France goes to war with Austria and its allies, including Prussia, (the war will last until 1797).
  • 1793: Louis XVI and Queen Marie Antoinette are guillotined in ...

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