The Song Peddler of the Pont Neuf
Laura Lebow, author
PARIS, 1788: Facing bankruptcy after years of expensive wars, King Louis XVI calls a meeting of the Estates General, the ancient French legislature which has not met in 174 years. The city hums with talk about modernizing the assembly and changing France into a constitutional monarchy. Paul Gastebois, a confidential inquirer, isn't interested in politics. He's busy with the daily tedium of detective work—following foreign diplomats for the Parisian police and helping artisanal guilds enforce their rules. He'd like to make a name for himself solving crimes, but few cases have come his way. Then Paul is hired to find a song peddler who sang bawdy songs to crowds on the Pont Neuf. The missing man had seen someone from his past on the bridge, and had vanished a few weeks later. As Paul searches Paris for the song peddler, his investigation leads him into the world of underground publishing, where anonymous writers attack King Louis and his queen, Marie-Antoinette, and foreign governments manipulate public opinion for their own purposes. When a ruthless killer strikes, Paul must unravel the mystery of the song peddler's disappearance, or risk losing everything he holds most dear.
Lebow (The Figaro Murders) vividly evokes the turbulent atmosphere of Paris on the eve of the French Revolution in this well-researched series launch featuring confidential inquirer Paul Gastebois. Most of Paul’s work consists of keeping tabs on foreign diplomats for the police, a task that keeps him loitering in the shadows and tailing his subjects through every arrondissement of the city. One evening, he’s approached by a new client, who asks him to locate a missing friend, Gaspard Bricon, an elderly song peddler. Just before Bricon disappeared, the old man confided “that he had seen a ghost—a ghost from the past.” In his search for Bricon, Paul encounters fully rounded characters from all levels of society, each of whom provides fascinating insights into the social climate of the time. The action builds to a surprising and satisfying solution. Lebow clearly loves Paris, and in Paul she has created a bold, intelligent protagonist. History buffs and lovers of well-plotted mysteries will be pleased. (BookLife)