Fanny, an assistant chef in a rich household in the Palace Royale section of Paris, is caught up in the tumultuous early days of the Revolution. The one-year anniversary of the storming of the Bastille prison is being celebrated, her mother has returned from her part in the march to Versailles, the National Assembly is eliminating as many special interests as it can, and the King and his much disliked Queen are awaiting their fate in Paris.
Fanny is conflicted about the changes and frightened by the increasing violence. She, along with others, feesl pressured to demonstrate her commitment to Equality and Fraternity. Is she truly a revolutionist or a royalist? Her master has fled to Germany, the staff has been dismissed, and her lover, Henri, has mysteriously disappeared. The murders of a neighboring chef and the maitre dhotel of her master's house, plus the startling discovery of jewels and money hidden in her spice box, increases her alarm. With her own life in danger, she must discover who wants the jewels, and how Henri and perhaps her family are involved.
The dialog and thoughts of the characters seem stilted and too modern for eighteenth century Parisians. An indication of womens political actions and organizations also would have been welcome. However, these slights are more than compensated by the appeal to older students of the character of Fanny and the rich period descriptions. This momentous time truly is brought to life, informing the reader of major Revolution events as well as the lifestyles of Parisian workers.
The author is a caterer, and food and wine critic; thus, there is close detail to the food of the time, how it is prepared, and how eaten. Authentic recipes of eighteenth-century Paris are also included.
Second in the Spice Box mysteries set in different historical periods. See our review of Spice Box #1, set in 1860s, New York City.