cover image A Dish Taken Cold

A Dish Taken Cold

Anne Perry. Carroll & Graf Publishers, $11.95 (80pp) ISBN 978-0-7867-0822-2

Departing from her usual Victorian milieu (the Charlotte and Thomas Pitt series and the William Monk series), Edgar-winner Perry has concocted a neat tale of survival and revenge at novella length, set in revolutionary France. It's the summer of 1792, three years after the fall of the Bastille, and the natives of Paris are increasingly discontented with the food shortages, the arbitrary mob rule, the lack of effective leadership by the Commune. On the border, meanwhile, the Prussians threaten invasion. Against this ominous backdrop, Celie, a young widowed servant in the employ of the real-life Madame de Sta l, suffers a personal tragedy. Celie's baby son, Jean-Pierre, dies in his crib, unattended by the friend, Amandine, in whose care she entrusted him. Later Celie learns that Amandine's lover, Georges, lured her away for a tryst during the fatal hour. Giving in to her worst feelings, Celie betrays the negligent lovers to the authorities, who are all too quick to arrest anyone on suspicion of treason. But not all is as it seems, and as the Prussian army marches on Paris and Marat sets the Terror in full bloody swing, the nobler side of Celie's nature comes to the fore as she contrives to have a little justice done amid the horrors. While slight in comparison to her novels, this spare, well-crafted novella should please Perry's fans. (Feb. 1)