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The Rhetoric of Death Hardcover – 16 February 2011
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- Publisher : Thorndike Pr; Lrg Rep edition (16 February 2011)
- Language : English
- Hardcover : 565 pages
- ISBN-10 : 1410434737
- ISBN-13 : 978-1410434739
- Dimensions : 13.97 x 2.54 x 21.59 cm
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This is the first historical novel I've read concerning the French religious organizations so it was informative to see how Maitre Charles du Luc, a member of the Society of Jesus, took up his position as a teacher of rhetoric, ballet, and drama at the College of Louis le Grande. There are quite a few characters in the novel and it took me a little while to get them straightened out in my mind, but after that I was completely enthralled with the preparations for the annual grand theatrical event while Maitre du Luc was getting himself into trouble by investigating a murder on the college grounds. Charles has years of teaching to go through before he will become a priest but a crisis from his past and his inability to follow orders make him question which direction his future will take.
A fine definition of characters, vivid descriptions of the political landscape during this portion of the reign of King Louis XIV, revealing research into the tense feelings between Catholics and Huguenots, and an almost unreal setting of finding the past and the future present and perfectly plausible in this changing world all combined to make this a most stimulating novel to read. The writing was superb and I eagerly look forward to reading the next book in the series.
Late 17th Century Paris is just evolving as the modern city that everyone loves today and the author provides considerable commentary on the buildings, public sites, history of the place and lives of the population as the setting for her crime story. Her characters, led by protagonist Charles du Luc (Jesuit father-in-training and proto-sleuth) are real people living in a dangerous, unhealthy and uncomfortable place. Their daily trials and tribulations are included in the flow of the tale without any sugar coating. The reader is left with no romantic notions about the semi-medieval condition of the "City of Lights".
Also quite original to this book is the close and detailed look at the teaching of rhetoric and the related subject of dance in France's elite high school of the time, Louis Le Grande. Author Judith Rock clearly knows a great deal about the subject of early ballet and invests a lot of pages in that subplot, adding some rich highlights to the book.
There are some quirks and small flaws here and there, but in general this is an entertaining and convincing story that signals the beginning of a fine new historic crime series. I had read the second installment ("The Eloquence of Blood") first, which I found to be a slightly better book. The author is definitely going in the right direction.
A bit of the story line was fairly easy to determine ahead of time but it did not detract from the well written scenes and feel of the time period.
Enjoyed the book.