The Rhetoric of Death–Judith Rock


Jesuits, Huguenots, Paris of Louis XIV—-the stage is set for state-sponsored murder and religious intrigue.  Enter Charles du Luc, a Jesuit master whose family is split between Catholics, one of whom is Bishop of Marseilles, and Huguenots, one of whom he has just helped escape to Switzerland to escape persecution and another of whom rots in a cell at the king’s pleasure.

Charles’ well-placed bishop relative secures him a place as rhetoric (and dancing, seen as connected at this time) master at the school of Louis le Grand, which enjoys the patronage of the king.  Charles is there mere days when a student leaps out a window during dance practice and disappears, following which the student’s younger brother is run down in the street, seemingly on purpose.  Charles’ curiosity and keen skills of observation lead him to investigate both incidents and explore the potential connections, even when he is warned off by his superior.  Soon he finds himself questioning events as well as his own vocation and the policies of Louis XIV in persecuting the Huguenots.  His path is made difficult by a fellow Jesuit, the last male member of the Guise family, hardcore partisans of the ultraconservative Catholic party in France.  Charles manages to solve the mystery, resolve his doubts about his vocation, and remove the obstreperous fellow Jesuit from his path.  He cannot resolve Louis’ troubled policies, but, through the course of the murder investigation, discovers that the situation is not as grim as the surface would indicate.

Rock sets us up for more mysteries involving Charles.  She creates such an interesting set of characters and beautifully draws the reader into the world of Louis XIV’s Paris that a bit more fictional murder seems in order.

Finished 7/21/13


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