False Patriots

Charles O'Brien, Severn, $28.95 (224p) ISBN 978-0-7278-6898-5

At the outset of O'Brien's thin ninth Anne Cartier mystery set in revolutionary Paris (after 2009's Deadly Quarrel), an Irish priest, Father O'Fallon, asks Anne, a teacher who works with deaf students, to help a deaf woman he knows, Marthe Boyer, in a difficult marriage. Marthe's brutal husband, "an impious atheist," has founded a radical political club, Citizens for Equality. When one of Anne's pupils is arrested for assault, her husband, Col. Paul de Saint-Martin, becomes involved in an investigation that reveals the precariousness of the constitutional regime in 1791 and what might follow if the "slender reeds" of authority fail to maintain law and order. While O'Brien excels as usual at plotting and historical accuracy, he doesn't develop his characters or supply the strong physical detail he once did. Still, the reader will cheer Anne and Paul along as the couple strive to do what they know to be right in the face of political chaos and general indifference. (July)