Palace of Justice

Hardcover and eBook
Publisher: St. Martin's Minotaur (November 23, 2010)
Hardcover List: $25.95
eBook: now $7.59
ISBN-10: 0312379897
ISBN-13: 978-0312379896

Order your hardcover copy online from any of the links at left.

Order a signed hardcover copy directly from me: US$12.00 + shipping

Louis XVI is in his grave, and Marie-Antoinette is on her way to trial. Paris is hungry, restless, and fearful in the autumn of 1793, and the guillotine’s blade is beginning to fall daily on the necks of enemies of the French Republic. Not even members of the republican government are safe from the threat of the Revolutionary Tribunal, where the only sentence for the guilty is death.

In this atmosphere of distrust and anxiety, police agent Aristide Ravel, while coming to terms with personal tragedy, must stop a ruthless killer who is terrorizing the city. Ravel soon learns, however, that hunting a murderer who strikes at random and leaves headless corpses on the streets, paralleling the ever more numerous victims of the guillotine, is a task that will lead him to dark, painful secrets and echoes from an even darker past.

From the Reviewers (Print)

(Starred Review) "In the autumn of 1793, Madame Guillotine is beheading the former Queen, unpopular politicians, and anyone else who has run afoul of the popular will of the people. Freelance police agent Aristide Ravel (Cavalier of the Apocalypse) is called to track down the serial killer who is terrorizing Paris by decapitating his victims and taking their heads. This is a stressful time for Ravel—his best friends are on trial for their lives, and everywhere he turns he must deal with gruesome deaths. VERDICT: Alleyn only gets better with each Ravel outing. She is not only conversant in French history but excels at character development. Her twisty plot reels out a single clue here and a hint there, leading the eager reader to an unexpected ending. Alleyn’s superb series will appeal to mystery readers who want brilliant characterization, an authentic historical setting, and a sense that they are walking the dark streets of Paris with Ravel during the Reign of Terror."
-- Library Journal

October 1793, Paris: Marie Antoinette is on her way to the guillotine, and police investigator Aristide Ravel realizes that a headless body found by the Palais-Égalité (that was and is the Palais-Royal, across from the Louvre), is only one of many beheaded corpses being deposited around the city. A freelance decapitator is at work, “barbarity, ruining any chance of credibility we might have,” according to Ravel’s powerful protector Georges Jacques Danton, a primary architect of the Republique Française. Ravel is also grappling with the impending political trial of his closest childhood friend, an idealistic bourgeois politician whose life is at risk as radical governmental factions begin their mob-pleasing, deadly attacks on moderates.

This is a complicated story, bursting with politics and many characters. Author Susanne Alleyn is justly praised for her intricate plotting, and she shows that off to good effect with Palace of Justice, a textbook example of a plot-driven mystery. Alleyn also clearly knows revolutionary Paris, its hunger, hatreds, and hopes; its Jacobins and Girondins; and also its streets, no-longer-used administrative sections, and landmarks. A map would have made those dozens of references more fun for this reader. The book does include an appreciated glossary, bibliography and historical notes.
-- The Historical Novels Review

(Starred Review) At the height of the Reign of Terror in 1793, an unknown killer is emulating the work of the guillotine by leaving beheaded corpses all over Paris in Alleyn's superior fourth Aristide Ravel mystery (after 2009's The Cavalier of the Apocalypse). Given the tight control of the republican government, the police don't realize that the deaths are part of a series, but eventually former justice minister Georges Danton asks Ravel to solve the case. With delicate peace negotiations with the English under way, Danton fears that word of the atrocities will jeopardize them. The pressure to catch the killer only increases as the roster of victims expands to include a member of the government. Alleyn brilliantly captures the paranoid spirit of the times, and inserts enough twists to keep most readers guessing. This entry approaches the quality of the historical fiction of such authors as Steven Saylor and Laura Joh Rowland.
-- Publishers Weekly

Alleyn's fourth takes readers back in time to Aristide Ravel's second major case, during the Terror after the French Revolution.

In 1793, Paris saw many headless corpses, enemies of the Republic swiftly dispatched by the guillotine. The body found in an alley and brought to investigator Ravel is different: a luckless whore brutally hacked apart, her head nowhere to be found. The Revolution turned all of France upside down: The Palais-Royal became the Palais-Égalité and Queen Marie-Antoinette the widow Capet. Now the Revolution itself is starting to turn, as beggars are decapitated and well-meaning Republicans tried for traitors--among them Mathieu Alexandre, Ravel's dearest boyhood friend. Even as the real enemies of the Republic, monarchist agitators and deposed aristocrats, are rallying Britain against France, Ravel hopes that Mathieu will be found innocent. He suspects that the provocateurs may even stoop to grisly murder to undermine the new regime. As the headless bodies mount across all classes and neighborhoods of Paris, Ravel, with the help of imprisoned Mathieu, closes in on the killer. But some of the murders don't fit the pattern. Has personal greed or vengeance swamped political conviction?

A fiendishly clever and compelling mystery set in a grim, gripping vision of Paris where there is no justice, only shades of gray.
-- Kirkus Reviews

Aristide Ravel, freelance agent for the Paris police, immerses himself in another tragic murder during the French Revolution. While the bloodied guillotine works at the behest of the republican government, a killer terrorizes the populace further by leaving headless corpses strewn about the city. The brutal truth of the matter gradually emerges to reveal so-called justice gone completely mad, and a killer driven by his own twisted agenda. This fourth in the Ravel series brings a "you are there" experience to a blood-soaked era in history, once again making the point that personal ideology combined with power can produce tragic results. The revolutionary chaos of Paris seen from street level, where death lurks behind every edifice, is sure to strike a chord for readers who remember A Tale of Two Cities.
-- Booklist

Online Reviews & Features

It's the Reign of Terror in France, the worst that the French Revolution has on offer. Not only the King has met his death at the hands of Madame Guillotine, but the much-maligned Queen is on trial, along with numerous aristocrats and those who have dared to utter a word against the Republic. Amidst this horror, Aristide Ravel, a quick-witted survivor who works as a freelance investigator for the Paris police, is asked by the highest authorities to find a killer who appears to be on a bloody spree. Corpses have been found in the alleys and streets of the city, their heads gruesomely severed from their bodies in a bizarre mockery of the death instrument of the new Republic. It's difficult to even identify the corpses, and even more so to find a link between them. Underlining the near futility of his search is the arrest of his closest friend, along with his political allies; a group now out of favor with the current revolutionary leaders and soon to be brought before the dreaded Tribunal to answer charges of treason. Ravel must use all of his knowledge of the workings of the government, both the old and the new, to untangle the threads that mask the secrets behind these crimes and finally unmask the killer. This is a well-plotted whodunit with a fascinating if somewhat confusing backdrop, and a lead character who is all too human and almost too admirable.
--Carol Howell, I Love A Mystery Newsletter

All inquiries about translation, reprint, audio, or
film/​TV rights should be directed to Susanne's agent:

Cristina Concepcion
Don Congdon Associates
110 William St., Suite 2202
New York, NY 10038

212 645 1229 phone
212 727 2688 fax

"C'est affreux mais c'est nécessaire": popular print, ca. 1793 ("It [the guillotine] is frightful but necessary")

Selected Works

Standalone Historical Novels:
Biographical fiction about Charles-Henri Sanson, Paris's public executioner
A reimagining of Dickens's A Tale of Two Cities
An annotated edition of Charles Dickens's classic novel.
A Writer’s (and Editor’s) Guide to Keeping Historical Fiction Free of Common Anachronisms, Errors, and Myths
The Aristide Ravel French Revolution Mysteries:
Book 1 of the Ravel Mysteries

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