Paris, 1786... Political ferment, fiscal crisis and social tension...
In France on the eve of the Revolution, Paris seethes with fiscal crisis and social tensions. Anne Cartier hears distressing news. Her stepfather, the actor Antoine Dubois, has mysteriously died in Paris. The official verdict: he killed his mistress, then himself.
Anne enlists the aid of Colonel Paul de Saint-Martin and his adjutant Georges Charpentier of the royal highway patrol. Their investigation goes nowhere. Then, a deaf, illiterate seamstress with a talent for puppetry leads Anne to the truth. Along the way, she confronts an amateur theatrical society of dissolute young noblemen; a tormented female botanist; a sadistic aesthete; a rich, well-connected financier; a professional assassin.
Unravelling the mystery tests Anne's nerve as well as her remarkable acrobatic skills. At a critical juncture in the investigation, she acts the part of an exotic queen in Indian costume at a reception. Priceless Indian jewelry disappears. Its owner, an aged count is murdered. And a venal police inspector threatens to derail Anne's project.
The story rises to a violent climax in a labyrinthine cave outside Paris where the city has begun to bury its dead.
About the Mystery
Mute Witness is the first in a series of historical mysteries, set in England and France on the eve of the French Revolution. The female protagonist is Anne Cartier, a headstrong young vaudeville actress at Sadler's Wells in London, who leaves the stage in favor of tutoring deaf children. Her new calling sometimes brings her into murderous company.
In her pursuit of truth and justice, Anne is joined by Colonel Paul de Saint-Martin and his adjutant Georges Charpentier of the Fench royal highway patrol. From time to time, these fictional characters meet Thomas Jefferson, Baron Breteuil, Thomas Braidwood, Abbé Charles-Michel de l'Épée and other historical figures.
"The bar for historical mysteries has just been raised, thanks to this masterly debut novel..."
Publishers' Weekly [A Starred Review]
"Charles O'Brien has written a deeply felt, fully imagined page turner."
Candace Robb, author of the Owen Archer and Margaret Kerr mysteries
Poisoned Pen Press