For the King, by Catherine Delors
Dutton Adult – July 8, 2010 – Hardcover – 352 pages
Source: Sent by publisher for review
France post-Revolution, under the rule of Napoleon Bonaparte, was teeming with factions scheming for power with an eye to either regaining the throne or at the very least ridding themselves of Bonaparte. Amidst the suspicion and tension, an assassination is attempted on Bonaparte and a bomb explodes in a well populated area of Paris, killing dozens of bystanders but failing to reach its target. Chief Inspector Roch Miquel must catch the would be assassins in a limited time period and with increasingly difficult circumstances cropping up, not only making his mission more challenging but also making the personal consequences he faces if he fails that much greater.
Peopled with a colorful cast of historical characters, For the King was a not only informative but thoroughly researched, well-written and a joy to read. I was a little worried when I first picked this up because with as much historical fiction that I read, French history is not my forté. I was worried about being to keep up with characters and events, but Delors made the historical figures and events relatable and easy to follow without overexplaining things to readers unfamiliar with this history.
Though told from multiple points of view, For The King balances out nicely between providing compelling story lines and characters in each part. Chief Inspector Roch Miquel emerges as the main and it was interesting to interact with him throughout the novel, because while he has admirably overcome a poverty stricken childhood to attain an important position in a class society that is notoriously fixed, I didn’t like him. He was judgmental and a know it all, and without the strong bond that he had with his father, I might not have let him win me over. He softens a little as he grows over the course of the novel.
Readers who like mysteries and/or are interested in the history of post-revolutionary France will really enjoy this novel. The novel deftly fills in the story of what is basically the world’s first police investigation, though instances of full cavity searches and not discussing cases with others pulled me out of the story just a little bit as I wondered if that would have happened in a first investigation. This may be historically accurate, but nevertheless seemed a little too modern even though it really could have worked in that manner. Miquel is involved with two women and for a first, I was wishing that the romance had been explored a little more deeply – as it was I got the point, but they were on the abrupt side and the novel would have benefitted from a fuller exploration of their characters.
Even with a few little quibbles, most times I could not put the novel aside, and if I did, I soon came wandering back just to see what would happen next. I was totally charmed by Delors’ writing and characters and am looking forward to going back and reading her debut novel, Mistress of the Revolution.