Nicolas Le Floch, commissioner for extraordinary affairs at Châtelet under the late reign of Louis XV and currently under that of Louis XVI, returns for new inquiries into Honor of Sartine, ninth opus in Jean-François Parot's successful series. Another good opportunity to dive into the heat and bustle of 18th-century Parise century, more precisely the summer of 1780, through a historical novel between thriller and thriller.
Police intrigue and historical plot
History is not, as we can find in many historical novels, that a soulless backdrop especially when we also touch the genre of the detective story. On the contrary, it fits into the main plot of this work. This intrigue is the suspicious death of a former and embittered controller general of the navy while France is in the midst of war against England in the New World, which is to say a war in which the navy has a primary role. Family crime? Question of inheritance or fierce hatred? This is without counting the state secrets held by the victim. More than the resolution of a simple criminal case, it is the stakes of the State, the stakes of the "King" which are threatened while the English spies prowl in the capital. The historical context is thus particularly present throughout the course of the investigation, involving many prestigious historical figures, starting with the greats of the time, Louis XVI and his ministers - Sartine and Necker - in the lead. It is thus a clever mix of fictitious and real characters with mainly fictitious attitudes and events, even if the author is largely based on real facts. However, apart from the importance of this context and the quality of the detective story, it is above all the reconstruction of the Paris of the time in which the novelist engages that seduces and astonishes.
A rich and documented painting of Paris
One of the great interests of this book but also of the whole series is truly to immerse ourselves in the Paris of the 18th century.e century. First of all, by giving us a real map of the capital, from the lower jail of the Grand Châtelet to the Palace of Versailles, including mansions, taverns and places of perdition. But this table would not be complete without the use of vocabulary as well as quotes from the period allowing an even greater immersion in this Age of Enlightenment. This vocabulary, particularly present in the dialogues, helps to make this representation of Paris more alive. As such, it becomes essential when the time comes to approach the gastronomy of the time. The many passages describing the culinary arts are often a feast for our senses:
- " - Peace ! Salivate! Tonight you will taste a boulard rolled with ridges. Beautiful beast, mortified with good reason, that I spoiled beautifully. […] I boned it and stuffed it with one of its sisters' whites mixed with bacon and a little pork. To all of this I added cream-dipped bath crumbs, the usual spices and six eggs, the yolks just to bind it all together. […] A good embers spurted the thing that I am going to serve you from this low with a ragout of ridges.
- - All naked?
- - Point. With mushrooms and truffles and tied with a veal coulis. You don't deserve it! "
Like the writings of a Rétif de la Bretonne (The Nights of Paris or the Night Spectator, 1788-1794) or a Louis-Sébastien Mercier (Paris painting, 1781), the reader can thus have the sensation of reading a period work, undeniably documented as much about the city as its society and its customs, while having the pleasure of immersing themselves in a detective novel.
This new opus thus takes all the ingredients which made the success of the previous novels. The reader will thus find an undeniable continuity in the life of the little Breton commissioner, who, let us note, sometimes lacks originality and renewal. However, we can only impatiently await the continuation of the adventures of Nicolas Le Floch, an enlightened man but a loyal royalist as the French Revolution draws inexorably closer.
Sartine's honor by Jean-François Parot, JClattes, Paris, October 2010.