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Tuesday, 13 September 2011

Review of The Rhetoric of Death by Judith Rock

Judith Rock has certainly led an eventful life. She has been a dancer and choreographer, a police officer in the NYPD and also holds a doctorate in art and theology. You might think it would be difficult to weave ballet, crime and Jesuit theology into one novel, but Judith Rock does it with aplomb.

Her main character, the delightful Charles du Luc, is rather too good looking to stay as a Jesuit priest without encountering romance, and without it causing him problems. He is also blessed with a fierce intelligence which he puts to use to solve the murder of a young boy at the Jesuit college of Louis le Grand where he is employed to teach Rhetoric.

The story has many notable and well-drawn characters, most of whom, including the police officer that dogs Charles' investigation, were real people of the time. The past is brought beautifully to life in Rock's evocation of 17th century France. She obviously knows the geography of Paris well and the college feels authentic. I had no idea that colleges put on ballets of such lavish proportions, but evidently they did.

This is a novel with texture - a fast-moving exciting plot which keeps you guessing who-dunnit, alongside the deeper theological questions of who to serve when the holy orders demand one thing and your conscience another. There is a dash of politics and romance too, which made the novel my perfect in-flight entertainment travelling home from Seville.

Judith Rock's new novel, "The Eloquence of Blood," another in the Charles du Luc series, is out now and you can hear Judith talking about it on my other blog Royalty Free Fiction. I chose this earlier book on the basis of her interesting article and wasn't disappointed. Highly recommended for francophiles and historical crime fans.

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