Days of Atonement

Days of Atonement by Michael Gregorio. The writing team of Michael Jacob and Daniela De Gregorio, which combine their names into a single pen name, paint a vividly dark portrait of Napoleonic Prussia in their second book to feature magistrate Hanno Stiffeniis. A tense atmosphere exists in the rural town of Lotingen as the occupying French army imposes its will upon the Prussian citizens. So when the bodies of three children are found murdered in a remote house rented to a Prussian officer away on assignment, both the French and local authorities agree that a joint investigation is needed to prevent any violence from erupting. Therefore, Stiffeniis finds himself working alongside an army criminologist from Paris named Serge Lavedrine. Like Alexander, Gregorio does a subtle job of inserting clues throughout the story letting readers solve the case along with the unlikely pair. The magistrate’s wife, Helena, is much more prominent in this book and there is an interesting cast of supporting characters: an undertaker with vast entrepreneurial activities and ambitions, a Jewish scientist, a husband and wife with divining powers, and a rebellious Prussian general. Each adds information which help Lavedrine and Stiffeniis come to a conclusion about who did the killings and why.

Though not as medically precise as Patricia Cornwell’s Scarpetta series, these books describe victims’ and prisoners’ gruesome conditions in some detail and may not be suitable for all readers.

For other mysteries set on the Continent during this time period, I recommend Charles O’Brien’s series set just prior to and during the French Revolution, Susanne Alleyn’s “Game of Patience” set in France between the revolution and Napoleon’s rise to power, and Ann Dukthas’ “Prince Lost to Time”, a look at the mystery surrounding the death of the Dauphin Louis Charles, son of the guillotined Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette, set in 1815 after Napoleon’s defeat.

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