Catherine Delors second novel, For the King, dramatically opens with a Christmas Eve bombing in Paris. The year 1800 is a tumultuous time for Parisians. The revolution has ended and Napoleon as First Consul is power hungry. The citizens of France are divided, some are still loyal to the now guillotined King Louis XVI, while others support Napoleon, but are weary of his growing power. The bomb is an assassination attempt on Napoleon, en route to the Opera.
There are plenty of people who would have liked to see the assassination attempt succeed, but who actually plotted it? Delors’ story unfolds as Chief Inspector Roch Miquel investigates the bombing, uncovering power plays and behind-the-scenes politicking that effect the country and his personal life. Miquel is pushed by his superiors’ ulterior motives to lead the investigation one way and then another; while his own father’s life hangs in the balance.
The setting is prime for an intriguing and adventurous plot but like much historical fiction, it sometimes gets bogged down. There is enough dalliance to make the story seem genuinely Parisian and attention to detail shows the author’s fondness for the city of love.
The reader spends the most time with Miquel and his character seems to be nothing more than a pawn for the other characters to play with. He is fatally flawed as a poor judge of character. He looks at true friends as only annoyances while pledging his loyalty to those pursuing their own Machiavellian agendas. Roch is ambitious but his aspirations are dwarfed by the real titans of 19th century Paris.
The book cover boasts historical detail and romantic story lines. Delors certainly follows through on the historical particulars but the romance is really third-rate. Roch fancies himself a romantic but this reader disagrees.
However, what Delors does best in For the King, is carry on a fine French tradition of the policier. If you are looking for a love story skip For the King but if you prefer a French detective story that happens to take place in 1800, For the King delivers.
For the King by Catherine Delors was received as a free review copy by Boston Book Bums.