The Mysterious Bookshop

The Phantom of Rue Royale, Parot, Jean-Francois

Nicolas Le Floch investigates a murder during a riot in Paris, in Parot’s superb third historical featuring the French police commissioner (after The Man with the Lead Stomach). In May 1770, all of Paris is eagerly anticipating the festivities to honor the upcoming wedding of the dauphin. But pleasure turns to panic one night after a fireworks display goes awry and causes a large fire in the Rue Royale. More than a thousand people perish fleeing the flames, but Nicolas is intrigued by just one victim—an unidentified pregnant woman of about 20 who was presumably crushed to death. Bluish marks on her neck, however, suggest that she was strangled, which an autopsy confirms. Nicolas artfully manipulates his superior into letting him probe the homicide, ostensibly as a way of concealing a more general inquiry into the causes of the accidental fire. Parot again displays an impressive command of period detail and politics, and uses them to enhance an intricate murder mystery.