cover image The Rhetoric of Death

The Rhetoric of Death

Judith Rock, Berkley, $15 paper (384p) ISBN 978-0-425-23664-2

Rock's superb historical debut opens with 28-year-old Charles du Luc arriving in 1686 Paris to serve as a teacher of rhetoric in a Jesuit school. He's spent seven years in the Society of Jesus and a stint in the French army that left him with a permanently damaged left arm. Soon after Charles takes up his position, Philippe Douté, a 16-year-old student under his charge, flees the school's grounds and disappears. A day later, a horseman almost runs down Philippe's younger brother in the street under circumstances that make Charles suspect that one enemy has targeted both boys. When Philippe's strangled corpse turns up in a latrine, Charles gets approval to look into the murder. His inquiry soon leads to danger for himself and his family. With an experienced writer's ease, Rock incorporates details of the political issues of the day into a suspenseful story line. Fans of Brother Cadfael, another military man turned priest sleuth, will be pleased. (Oct.)