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Game of Patience by Susanne Alleyn
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Another great mystery by Alleyn. Arstide Ravel is an agent for the French police post-Revolution and pre-Napolean. He is tormented, he hates and loves his job. He is lonely and sad, but hopeful. The historical accuracy is excellent. The book moves along at a good pace. Though I knew who the murderer was pretty early on, how Ravel figured it out kept me going easily. ( )
  jmaloney17 | Jan 16, 2012 |
Aristide Ravel is an agent of the police in post-Revolutionary Paris. Assisting the police without actually joining the force means that he can investigate puzzling murders but avoid the tedious public service that also goes with the job. So he dresses in black, 'like a crow that's fallen into an inkwell', and plays patience (or 'solitaire', which would be more appropriate) until his friend and associate Commissaire Brasseur calls on his sleuthing skills. I like him already! (I'm only kicking myself that this book has been in my Shopping Basket for months, nay years, but I have only recently purchased it because I found a Kindle version - with cramped text - that prompted my curiosity!)

Although not a particularly original detective character - Ravel's only distinguishing traits are his card-playing, perhaps representing his ordered and patient mind, and his haunting backstory - Susanne Alleyn has chosen an interesting historical era for her books and done her research well. The French Revolution is my pet subject, but I have never really read beyond the Terror, so following Ravel through the blood-stained and unsettled streets of Paris in 1796 (post-Robespierre, pre-Napoleon) is new to me, yet at the same time grounded in familiar places and events. Although the guillotine is a symbol of the Terror, dispatching royalty and revolutionaries alike, the 'national razor' remained as a method of execution until 1939, so the threat of capital punishment still looms large for Ravel's suspects, even though the Revolution is over. I also love the detail that Alleyn slips seamlessly into the text, bringing time and place alive - historical figures, real crimes, and even a bibliography make for an exciting murder mystery that is all the more interesting for being based on facts. Alleyn knows her stuff, from police procedure to the street names of late eighteenth century Paris.

Despite being a little top-heavy in backstory and exposition, the plot of this first novel is neatly crafted and Ravel is a flawed genius, whose flashes of insight usually occur just in time to rectify his own mistakes. The reader is also quicker to realise what is happening than the detective, as with Celie's secret and Rosalie's influence, but Ravel gets there in the end. The ending was a little too tidy for my liking, and I could only forgive the cross-dressing and 'tortured soul' angle because Alleyn was inspired by a real-life murder investigation (can't argue with history!), but the rest I loved. Definitely recommended, to readers of crime fiction and historical novels, history buffs interested in the French Revolution (Ravel actually reminded me of Chauvelin from Orczy's Scarlet Pimpernel series), or just anyone who loves a well-written story. ( )
1 vote AdonisGuilfoyle | Feb 24, 2011 |
Aristide Ravel is a police agent. In his time, 1796, that means that he is an investigator, although some agents are nothing more than police spies. But he is called in on a double homicide. Both victims, a young society girl and an older gentleman are both found shot dead in the man's apartment. The police have a lot of trails to follow, first identifying the dead girl, then trying to decide which was the intended victim and who might have wanted them dead.

At the same time, the whole city is struggling with the aftereffects of the Revolutions. Everything has new names: the days of the week, the months, the streets, the 'citizens' themselves. And the memory of the Terror hangs over everyone, making them reluctant to get involved in a police investigation. Ravel himself is haunted by the execution of a close friends and by the more recent execution of what he believes was an innocent man. This case, he says, must be without any doubts.

I really enjoyed this mystery. I just found it at the library and I'm glad I saw it. I hope the series continues. ( )
1 vote cmbohn | Aug 22, 2010 |
Off with their heads!

I can almost hear the vociferous Queen from Lewis Carroll's, "Alice in Wonderland," screaming that phrase at the top of her lungs as this story commences with an old cart containing three prisoners making it's way toward the square where the guillotine and the executioner await them. She would fit right in with the crowd that cheers the cart's arrival and is eager for the "entertainment" to begin. No cable TV back in the day.

Here is an author, Susanne Alleyn, who writes historical novels that are so well researched and are so compelling that you never realize you have been spoon fed a huge dose of French history, quite painlessly, until you realize that no one "ordinarily educated" should know this much about what the French people were doing at this point in history. Alleyn's passion for this period brings this book and the characters vividly to life.

Game of Patience happens to be the first novel published featuring the Aristide Ravel Mysteries, although the chronological order places it as the second in the series, featuring Ravel, as a police spy (investigator/detective) who works with the police department in one of the arrondissements in the City of Paris. The first in the series, [The Cavalier of the Apocalypse], is in my to be read stack, and I am very eager to get to it as soon as possible. The story spins out through the the time period in French history after "the Troubles" and before the rise of Napoleon to power and features the gentleman, Aristide Ravel. However, don't miss this one Game of Patience, after you read The Cavalier of the Apocalypse, or as a stand alone book, and remember also, that Ms. Alleyn is one of our own LT Authors, and definitely worth seeking out for all of her books which are excellent and very entertaining. Incidentally, the title refers to the card game Aristide plays while relaxing and passing time while his clever brain works on the mystery at hand. Solitaire, anyone? ( )
1 vote womansheart | May 22, 2010 |
Rating: 4.5* of five

The Publisher Says: Paris, 1796. Aristide Ravel, freelance undercover police agent and investigator, is confronted with a double murder in a fashionable apartment. The victims prove to be Célie Montereau, the daughter of a wealthy and influential family, and the man who was blackmailing her.

Célie's enigmatic and bitter friend Rosalie Clément provides Aristide with intelligence that steers him toward Philippe Aubry, a young man with a violent past who had been in love with Célie. According to an eyewitness, however, Aubry could not have murdered Célie. As time passes, Aristide finds himself falling in love with Rosalie, albeit reluctantly, as he suspects that she knows more about the murders than she will say.

When Aristide uncovers evidence that points to Rosalie herself, he must learn whom she is protecting and why before he can obtain justice for Célie and save Rosalie from the guillotine. From the gritty back alleys of Paris to its glittering salons and cafés, through the heart of the feverish, decadent society of post-revolutionary France, Aristide's investigation leads him into a puzzle involving hidden secrets, crimes of passion, and long-nurtured hatreds.

With elaborate French cultural atmosphere, author Susanne Alleyn has created a sophisticated and stylish mystery set in the uneasy and turbulent years between the Terror and the rise of Napoleon.

My Review: French Revolution buff Alleyn's second novel and first mystery is a perfect example of how historical fiction can illuminate history in the most satisfying and intriguing light; simple textbook history doesn't and can't come close to the concerns and needs of the actual people of 1796 Paris, and this book does that job very, very well.

I could end this review here, adding only "read it yourself if you don't believe me," but I want to offer some specifics.

The upheaval of the Revolution was as inevitable as anything in all of history could be. When intolerable abuse is heaped upon enough people for a long enough time, they find a way to make it stop. While there were Royalists in France, like there were Tories in the American Revolution, they lost...so the history is that of the winners.

But what about the average citizen and citizeness? (These were the titles that replaced Monsieur et Madame in those years.) What did life hold for them? Alleyn explores this subject in her novel, and what life held was...well, what it always holds: Love, hate, fear, passion, joy, rejection, redemption (though that last is rare). So Alleyn delves into our human comedy to show us that, mutatis mutandis, Revolutionary Paris's people were just like us, only colder and hungrier.

The story of Aristide Ravel, police spy, and Henri Sanson, executioner, is one of destinies that criss-cross in unpleasant places. Surprisingly, they find themselves friends...okay, friendly acquaintances at first. As a result of the movements of the plot, their most dramatic meeting will cause the friendship to blossom or die; another book will tell that tale. But theirs is the central relationship in this book. It's an odd thing to say, I suppose, but it's true; they each have one half of a very important story in their possession, neither knowing this until the author clangs them into each other so hard that the reader's teeth rattle.

While Sanson is central to the story, he's offstage most of the time. This device worked well enough, though I was a bit overprepared for his eventual appearances by the time they happened.

The principal quality of this book for me was its rhythm. I felt I was there, living by the truly alien Revolutionary calendar of thirty-day months and ten-day weeks. I found myself thinking "isn't it just about décadi, shouldn't stuff be closed?" (That was the Revolutionary Sunday-day-of-rest equivalent.) I wondered where the manservant was more than once while immersed in Aristide's life...he's too poor to have one. (I relate.) I felt myself jolting along in the fiacre with Aristide and his boss (actually just the frost-heaved Long Island roads) to the Hotel de Ville (my village's city hall is nothing like so grand, but it's next to the liberry so the association stuck).

If you are bored by history, try reading this book. It will allow you to experience history more directly than even a conventional historical novel could, since there are such ordinary human stakes in the crime committed and its solution. If you're a mystery fan, the puzzle should keep you going. IIf you're just an old sourpuss, give it a miss. But I hope you aren't, and hope you'll have a great time walking around Paris with Aristide and his crew.


This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License. ( )
4 vote richardderus | Sep 24, 2009 |
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To Berenice and Walt McDayter, with love and thanks always
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Aristide did not often set foot in the Place de Grève. It was an ill-omened place, the Golgotha of Paris, the site of uncounted butcheries across five centuries, and he loathed public executions.
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First novel in the Aristide Ravel/French Revolution historical mystery series.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0312343639, Hardcover)

Paris, 1796. Aristide Ravel, freelance undercover police agent and investigator, is confronted with a double murder in a fashionable apartment. The victims prove to be Célie Montereau, the daughter of a wealthy and influential family, and the man who was blackmailing her.

Célie's enigmatic and bitter friend Rosalie Clément provides Aristide with intelligence that steers him toward Philippe Aubry, a young man with a violent past who had been in love with Célie. According to an eyewitness, however, Aubry could not have murdered Célie. As time passes, Aristide finds himself falling in love with Rosalie, albeit reluctantly, as he suspects that she knows more about the murders than she will say.

When Aristide uncovers evidence that points to Rosalie herself, he must learn whom she is protecting and why before he can obtain justice for Célie and save Rosalie from the guillotine. From the gritty back alleys of Paris to its glittering salons and cafés, through the heart of the feverish, decadent society of post-revolutionary France, Aristide's investigation leads him into a puzzle involving hidden secrets, crimes of passion, and long-nurtured hatreds.

With elaborate French cultural atmosphere, author Susanne Alleyn has created a sophisticated and stylish mystery set in the uneasy and turbulent years between the Terror and the rise of Napoleon.
 
"Police procedural fans and historical novel buffs, rejoice! Susanne Alleyn's fast-paced Game of Patience is an engrossing, richly detailed whodunit set in edgy, post-revolutionary Paris. From the opening guillotine scene to the wrenching why-dun-it denouement, I was riveted."
---Karen Harper, New York Times bestselling author of The Fatal Fashione and The Last Boleyn
 
"Susanne Alleyn's Game of Patience is a well-crafted historical mystery, authentic in every detail. Wonderfully entertaining."
---Sandra Gulland, author of  The Josephine Bonaparte Collection
 
"Post-revolutionary Paris is the setting for this sophisticated and stylish novel, a true mystery, penned by Americna author Susanne Alleyn, who creates the atmosphere of those pre-Napoleonic days that challenges the skills of Caleb Carr of The Alienist fame."
---Big Sleep Books

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:02:59 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

"Paris, 1796, Aristide Ravel, freelance undercover police agent and investigator, is confronted with a double murder in a fashionable apartment. The victims prove to be Celie Montereau, the daughter of a wealthy and influential family, and the man who was blackmailing her." "Celie's enigmatic and bitter friend Rosalie Clement provides Aristide with intelligence that steers him toward Philippe Aubry, a young man with a violent past who had been in love with Celie. According to an eyewitness, however, Aubry could not have murdered Celie. As time passes, Aristide finds himself falling in love with Rosalie, albeit reluctantly, as he suspects that she knows more about the murders than she will say." "When Aristide uncovers evidence that points to Rosalie herself, he must learn whom she is protecting and why before he can obtain justice for Celie and save Rosalie from the guillotine. From the gritty back alleys of Paris to its glittering salons and cafes, through the heart of the feverish, decadent society of post-revolutionary France, Aristide's investigation leads him into a puzzle involving hidden secrets, crimes of passion, and long-nurtured hatreds."--BOOK JACKET.… (more)

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