The French writer Olivier Barde-Cabuçon has written seven novels featuring the Chevalier de Volnay, the so-called Inspector of Strange and Unexplained Deaths in Louis XV’s Paris. Casanova and the Faceless Woman, the first to be translated into English (by Louise Rogers Lalaurie), is an entertaining introduction to the series... Barde-Cabuçon not only produces a satisfying mystery story but also successfully captures the febrile atmosphere of a society where the ancien regime is under threat from the emerging ideas of the Enlightenment.
Paris in 1759 is a city in turmoil, where the rich and powerful are cheek-by-jowl – and, in the case of the jaded and salacious monarch, sometimes even closer – with the poor. When the mutilated body of a young woman is discovered, Volnay’s investigation brings him into contact not only with the eponymous lothario but also with the warring factions at court and a secret society that aims to overthrow the crown. A splendid mystery with an appealingly enigmatic protagonist, plenty of melodrama and intrigue, and a vivid, pungent evocation of a turbulent time.