Black spots in City of Lights

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Books -

inthine net­work of mur­der and the oc­cult that spread through Paris, and even threat­ened the life of Louis XlV, later in the cen­tury.

The ti­tle his­tory has given to the whole ghastly se­ries of events in which Cather­ine and Lesage were key play­ers is the Af­fair of the Poi­sons. City of Crows takes place in the lead-up to the af­fair. The fo­cus is on fic­tional Char­lotte, a woman of lowly birth whose hus­band has died of the plague.

She en­coun­ters the crim­i­nal Lesage when he has just been re­leased from the gal­leys in Mar­seille. He is on his way to Paris to re­deem a trea­sure hid­den in a cel­lar to which he has the map.

Only one of Char­lotte’s chil­dren, Ni­co­las, is still alive, but he has been kid­napped. Char­lotte’s plan is to seek safety from the plague in Lyon, but Lesage per­suades her to head for Paris to look for the boy. Stolen chil­dren are sold as slaves, or they be­come vic­tims of sac­ri­fi­cial black masses.

With a heavy heart but with great courage, Char­lotte makes the long jour­ney to the cap­i­tal in the hope of res­cu­ing her son. Hope and love are the mo­tives that in­form all her ac­tions. Her

EVEN AT HER MOST HOR­RI­FY­ING, CHAR­LOTTE NEVER QUITE LOSES THE READER’S SYM­PA­THY

Au­thor Chris Womer­s­ley has blood on his mind

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