Friday, December 10, 2010

"Palace of Justice"

Susanne Alleyn was born in Munich and grew up in Western Massachusetts and New York City, earning a BFA in Theatre from NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts. She has been fascinated with the French Revolution since childhood and has been exploring and writing about it since her teens.

She applied the Page 69 Test to Palace of Justice, her new novel, and reported the following:
Palace of Justice is the fourth novel in my Aristide Ravel historical mystery series, but the second chronologically (set seven years after The Cavalier of the Apocalypse). On page 69, while investigating a series of sinister murders committed in the midst of the French Revolution, police agent Ravel walks alone through Paris toward the cemetery where the latest victim has been found--with his head hacked off like the rest. Were these headless corpses victims of a madman, a passionate revolutionary, or a royalist plot to dishonor the young French Republic?
The ruins of the old church of La Madeleine, half-demolished in the decade before the Revolution and never rebuilt, stood at the head of Rue de la Révolution--once Rue Royale--with a clear view down to the Place de la Révolution. One could easily see the scaffold and guillotine that were now permanently erected near the plaster statue of the goddess Liberty in the center of the square.
It’s October 1793, four years into the Revolution, and the political Terror is becoming part of daily life in Paris. Both deposed royalty and former allies of the new republican regime are sent, in turn, to the Revolutionary Tribunal and often from there to the guillotine.

Earlier that day, Ravel managed to visit three close friends, once members of the discredited, moderate Brissotin party in the elected government, who are now prisoners of the Republic and the more radical party of the “Mountain.” No one knows when the Brissotins, too, may find themselves before the Tribunal, but Ravel has few illusions about revolutionary justice:
Aristide swiftly turned northward when he reached the Madeleine, avoiding the sight of the guillotine in the near distance. Liberty now gazed coldly down at the almost daily executions of a miserable counterfeiter here, a profiteer there, now and then a luckless general who had lost too many battles, or--more often--merely an unfortunate fishwife or layabout who had tipsily insisted on shouting “Long live the king!” in front of a fanatical patriot. The number of prisoners held under suspicion of “incivism,” which encompassed everything from active treason to expressing dissatisfaction with the Republic, had doubled since the Law of Suspects had been passed. Now, merely to have shown insufficient enthusiasm was enough, sometimes, to send you to prison until the end of the war (and it looked as if the war was going to stretch on with no end in sight), or until some fussy clerk decided that your case ought to be tried before the Revolutionary Tribunal.
Page 69 is subtext rather than plot. Although, in the course of the story, we follow every step of Aristide’s hunt for the elusive killer, we also see the extremes to which rigid ideology and troubled times can lead otherwise decent and well-meaning people, in the name of their ideals. Under the Terror, the fanatics, both monarchist and republican, will choose even murder--through a perverted, compliant judicial system or with their own hands--to bring about their chosen ends.

In such conditions, he thought bleakly, even a careless word, or foolish idealism and impractical politics like that of the Brissotin deputies, became crimes. And it seemed more and more likely that the Brissotins, surely guilty of such faults though the truest of patriots, were going to have a hard time of it at their impending trial. The Tribunal, though it had freed a respectable number of suspects over the past seven months, was not likely to let so many enemies of the Mountain out of its clutches.

Would Mathieu and his friends soon be traveling that same route to the Place de la Révolution?
Learn more about the book and author at Susanne Alleyn's website and blog.

My Book, The Movie: The Cavalier of the Apocalypse.

The Page 69 Test: The Cavalier of the Apocalypse.

Visit the complete list of books in the Page 69 Test Series.

--Marshal Zeringue