For the King, by Catherine Delors – A Review

Summer is upon us and I am taking a bold move and jumping ship from my usual fare of Jane Austen and her offspring to cross the channel into France during the Napoleonic Wars with For the King, a detective thriller set in post-Revolutionary Paris steeped in politics and revenge.

Firstly, this book has an absolutely stunning cover and eye catching title that may be misleading to readers. This is not a novel about the glittering social season in Paris with Napoleon and Josephine resplendent with Ball gowns and romantic entanglements. It is about the plight of the proletariat in Paris, political corruption, honor, and integrity. Caveat emptor.

On Christmas Eve 1800, a devastating explosion by “machine infernale” on rue Saint-Nicaise in Paris kills twenty-two citizens, wounds fifty-six others and destroys dozens of surrounding buildings. Napoleon Bonaparte the newly self-appointed First Consul of France continues by carriage on his route to an evening at the Opera unharmed. This failed assassinated attempt angers many people, but who is responsible?

Napoleon has numerous enemies including his own countrymen. Could it be the Jacobin forces responsible for the French Revolution nine years prior who want their overthrown constitutional government reinstated, or the Chouans, loyal to the Catholic monarchy intent on the restoration of a deposed King? Napoleon is convinced that the Jacobins are to blame and immediately orders the arrest over a hundred known insurgents. The powerful Minister of Police Joseph Fouché is determined to prove to Napoleon that the Royalist’s are at fault requesting Chief Inspector Roch Miguel to investigate two known Chouans, Pierre de Saint-Régent and Francois Carbon. To cover his bet the Minister has also offered a reward of 2,000 gold louis for any information leading to the arrest and conviction of the Jacobins who “committed the atrocity.”

Suspicious of Fouché’s speed in delivering these two names, Miguel begins the investigation into the assassins of the rue Saint-Nicaise from evidence and eye witness accounts. Miguel’s superior Prefect of Police Louis-Nicolas Dubois influenced by his boss Fouché also believes the Jacobins are to blame. From the description of the suspects Miguel is not convinced the assassins are any known Jacobins. His boss points out the similarity to the “Conspiracy of Daggers” assassination plot by the Jacobins against Napoleon only two months prior. Miguel suggests they do not know enough yet and should not ignore clues that would lead to the Chouans. Dubois accuses Miguel of favoritism to the Jacobins because of his father’s allegiance and blames him for not knowing of the assassination plot and preventing it. When Miguel’s aged father Old Miguel is arrested as a suspect, Dubois gives Roch one month to prove that the Royalists indeed are behind the plot or his father will be deported as a traitor. Interestingly, the two suspects supplied by Minister of Police Joseph Fouché are quickly linked to the crime, but failing to find the elusive third man with gold spectacles may be Roch’s undoing and his father’s eminent death.

Based on the “Plot of the Rue Saint-Nicaise” author Catherine Delors has crafted a thriller from historical fact; – a police procedural in its infancy. Meticulously researched at the archives of the Ministry and Prefecture of Police in Pairs, the events surrounding the bombing and the eventual investigation give the reader an inside view of the political atmosphere of post-Revolutionary France and Napoleon’s struggle to rule a country manipulated away from the new Republic and the old Royalty.

Psychologically, the conspiracy is viewed from the perspective of the two main male characters, young, honorable Chief Inspector Rouch Miguel and the revengeful mastermind behind the plot Joseph de Limoëlan. Each represent opposite sides of the struggle: Limoëlan a former aristocrat who watched his family guillotined and his property confiscated by the Republic and Miguel, a Jacobin peasant and citizen of the street who rose socially by education and hard work. Both working for their own France. Napoleon on the other hand is working for his own corrupt vision France.

Steeped in incredible detail, I recommend For the King to readers who love to be engulfed in an era and swept away in suspense and intrigue.  Since we know the perpetrators of the plot from the beginning, this is not a mystery, but it plays out like one as the main character CI Roch Miguel must solve the crime to save his father and the Jacobin dignity. Those who like a good thriller will be pleased with the plot twists, double dealings and political machinations, however, those looking for emotional depth will be unmoved and short sheeted on the romance.

3 out of 5 Regency Stars

For the King, by Catherine Delors
Dutton Adult (2010)
Hardcover (352) pages
ISBN: 978-0525951742

© 2007 – 2010 Laurel Ann Nattress, Austenprose

9 thoughts on “For the King, by Catherine Delors – A Review

  1. Thank you for the great review. Really narrows it down to what we may be looking for in a book and so whether or not we’d want to read it.

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    • Joanna – I have not read Mistress of the Revolution so I can not say. Have you?

      I think Delors has great talent, but this story lacked heart and emotion. The historical detail was amazing though and I feel like I took a class in French history, which I am not as well versed in as British.

      Interestingly, Jane Austen wrote little about historical detail, but excelled at characterization. I may be swayed by her talent at creating rich and life-like characters, but that is what I crave and what makes a book memorable for me.

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      • No, I haven’t read it either, but I did pick it up because I was intrigued by the cover and the historical setting as well.

        I agree. I think that’s a big difference in Jane Austen and Georgette Heyer as well, although they’ve often been grouped together as Regency romance writers. They are really very different writers, each with her own particular genius.

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    • I have read both and Mistress of the Revolution is a thousand times better. I believed For the King to be a very poorly edited, rushed, work. The story line is amazing and very interesting but the passion is missing. Mistress of the Revolution will be one of my all time favorite literary masterpieces. For the King just doesn’t compare.

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      • Allison, I am glad to know that Mistress of the Revolution is so highly thought of by you. Catherine is a talented writer, but I agree with your points about For the King. Fascinating topic but the execution was rushed and unromantic. I am looking forward to her next book.

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  2. I really liked Mistress of the Revolution alot more. I still think For the King is worth a read. The stories are such different styles, its hard to compare them…

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