August 1787, the biennial art exhibition at the Louvre opens with a ghastly discovery.
One of the paintings to be shown at the Salon of 1787, portraying a countess who had recently died, has been vandalized. The artist of the portrait, commissioned by her husband, an elderly count, becomes one of the suspects. The artist accuses a colleague who, however, shortly thereafter is stabbed to death.
Anne Cartier is drawn to investigate the crime by her deaf friend Michou, a pupil of the murdered artist. Other suspects include an Italian art dealer, who may have known the countess too well and has reasons both to love and to hate her. At the heart of the mystery is a master extortionist ensnaring the participants. Anne, her husband Paul de Saint-Martin, and his adjutant Georges Charpentier pursue the investigation from the Lourvre's apartments and studios into the streets and sewers of Paris and beyond to the count's country estate near Fontainebleau. The chase comes to a climax in an art gallery.
About the Mystery
Lethal Beauty (Severn House, 2005) is the fourth in the Anne Cartier historical mystery series. The action begins in August 1787 and takes place chiefly in and around the Louvre at the time of the biennial Salon, an exhibition of the best of French painting and sculpture of the past two years. Home of the royal family for centuries, the Louvre now provided quarters for artists and their students, royal pensioners, the royal printing office, and various royal academies. Lust, greed, pride and the other deadly sins flourished there as elsewhere in Paris. The story opens with the accidental (?) death of a countess, followed by the defacing of her portrait, and the murder of a painter. Anne Cartier and her husband, Colonel Paul de Saint-Martin attempt to unravel an increasingly complex mystery, at some risk to themselves.
"Deftly drawn characters and a plot that will keep even seasoned mystery fans guessing..."
Booklist, review by Emily Melton, May 1, 2005
"...the protagonists remain as engaging as ever... As usual, O'Brien vividly conveys the great inequalities within French society under Bourbon rule."
Publishers Weekly, May 16, 2005
Severn House Publishers, Ltd.
US$28.95 - Can$36.95 - UK£18.99