"The Rhetoric of Death", by Judith Rock

The Rhetoric of Death - Judith Rock

Book 1, in the Charles Du Luc series

This debut novel is a patchwork of known events and a lot of imagination by a very active mind. This historical fiction spins a tale of interesting and rich details set in the sumptuous Paris of the 17th century France. 

The opening act is staged at the college of Louis le Grand, where the Jesuits produced drama, lavish ballets and opera as part of their teaching rhetoric. The main player is the delightful fictional character Charles du Luc, a good looking Jesuit priest who is employed as a teacher of rhetoric and dance director at the college. All goes well till one day a student star dancer disappears to later be found murdered in a very unusual place and an attempt made on his younger soon after. Charles curiosity and skills lead him to explore the connections between the two incidents. As he gets more and more involved, he faces up all sorts of hazards…..cassocks flies in the chases and a lot of hanky panky go on behind the scenes…….We reach the closing act …..a play and a ballet for the final moments….

For the first 100 pages or so the author sets the stage and provides overwhelming details on the politics and religious conflicts of the time and introduces at a monastic rhythm her characters. Most interesting but this introduction lingered and became a laborious experience, too much information dumping. I persisted in my mental effort and was rewarded as soon as the mystery kicked in and Charles’ investigation began. The plot may have been rather slow in pace it nonetheless was quite compelling. Charles is a wonderful protagonist a Jesuit torn between is vows and his manly needs… The rich prose with the engaging and intriguing dialogue save the day along with the wonderful trip through the Paris of 17th century…..Slow start for this series but not a bad one, will see what “The Eloquence of Blood” has in store for me.