Sampler: Death A La Carte by Ian Honeysett and Peter Stevens
December 9, 2020
As the body count mounts in this taut 18th-century thriller, no one is immune from the carnage – nor from suspicion.
An ancient poison is resurrected as a ruthless struggle for control of the Capital’s dining empire begins.
Inspector-General Rouget Maison, aided by his young protégé, Christine Gilbert, and Doctor Dernes, comes under intense political pressure to catch the killer.
Paris, Summer 1791. As the Revolution gathers speed, one business is booming: Restaurants.
And where there’s money… there’s also murder.
One restaurateur, Maurice Rives, is burying his father who has suddenly died when he too becomes violently ill and collapses into the family grave screaming, “MURDERER!” But who among the onlookers is he pointing at?
Further deaths rapidly follow, as the ranks of restaurateurs quickly diminish. Panic and anger grip Paris, and Maison must quickly uncover a complex web of conspiracy, revenge, and betrayal.
As the body count mounts, no one is immune from the carnage – nor from suspicion.
Sampler: Death A La Carte
The scientific section at the Châtelet was, perhaps, not quite at the forefront of developments. It occupied just two rooms with some rather ancient-looking equipment. The resident apothecary and acting doctor, Michel Dernes, though, had no doubts about the dregs from the bottle of St Emilion taken from the dead hand of Marcus Gaughin, the late waiter at the Rives’ restaurant.
“Monkshood, no question about it, young Rouget. Judging by the amount of poison in this sample, if the first victim drank up to three glasses, it was a miracle that he made it to the cemetery. As for the other two, the fornicating couple, they probably would have lasted maybe an hour, if they had shared the remaining wine equally.”
Rouget had come across monkshood once before in a murder and suicide case, where a wife had killed her philandering husband, also with poisoned wine. When she was caught, rather than risk being broken on the wheel, she had poisoned herself with the same concoction. That, however, had been eight years ago and he was no expert. So he asked Dernes: “What can you tell me about monkshood poisoning?”
Doctor (whether he had the right to call himself that, Rouget had never been sure) Dernes put on his spectacles. In some ways, he looked like what you might expect from an apothecary: an old man (at least 65, probably in his 70s) with very thin, very white hair, a frail body, and a noticeable stoop. His voice, however, was surprisingly youthful. “Well, young Rouget (he had always addressed Rouget thus, despite Maison’s rise up the ranks and his approaching middle age) this poison is no stranger to me, although it goes under a number of names, including wolfsbane, queen of all poisons and sometimes women’s bane, as it is so often administered by the fairer sex to their menfolk. It can be obtained from a number of plants found on our mountainsides, so expert knowledge is not really required.”
“I was coming to that. A feeling of tingling, in the limbs and in the mouth; nausea, leading to vomiting and diarrhea; extreme dizziness and, when enough is administered, death, pretty quickly. There is no antidote.”
“So it wouldn’t be the sort of poison that I would use to despatch someone over a period of time?”
“Oh no, young Rouget. If you were to do that, something like arsenic would be far more appropriate. Also, in my experience, those sorts of murderers are usually trying to hide their crimes, disguising them as accidents, or food poisoning. By the look of it, the first murder, that of the young man, couldn’t have been either and never pretended to be.”
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