cover image Death Au Gratin

Death Au Gratin

Richard Grayson. St. Martin's Press, $19.95 (0pp) ISBN 978-0-312-13047-3

The cream of late-19th-century Parisian society (the gratin) exhibits enough energetic misbehavior to call for the firm hand and diplomatic tact of Inspector Gautier of the Surete. Monsieur Armand de Perigord has overcome his questionable background and, by virtue of manners and wealth, risen to the upper echelons of society. But his notorious indiscretions have stirred someone's homicidal impulses. In the first murder attempt, a poisonous cobra placed in his bed kills the chambermaid. The second effort, a bomb thrown into his carriage, is successful and draws Inspector Gautier into the company of French aristocrats, whose arrogance and amorality he finds unpalatable. Could the killer have been a cuckolded husband? Or were Perigord's amorous liaisons simply a cover for his homosexual activity? Gautier, with the aid of Surat, his loyal assistant, uncovers an intricate web of blackmail and deceit that may have international implications. Grayson (Death Off Stage) tosses off a few too many red herrings, but this detailed evocation of belle epoque Paris, with its intriguing look at the French judicial system and all too human protagonist, provides extremely pleasant reading. (Aug.)