The story begins prophetically on All Hallows Eve, 1785, as Aristide Ravel, an impoverished young political writer, wanders into the scene of a fire set in the small Parisian church of St. Médard. In this prequel to Susanne Alleyn’s Game of Patience (2006) and A Treasury of Regrets (2007), it is over the curious pattern of charred debris at the altar of St. Médard’s that Ravel first meets his future cohort, Inspector Brasseur.
Two months later the curious pattern is repeated in the churchyard of St. André des Arts, scene of a grizzly [sic] murder, the victim unidentified but clearly a wealthy man. Brasseur suspects Ravel and forces him into the role of investigator to avoid arrest. Over a period of eight days the investigation moves nonstop. The corpse, still unidentified, is stolen from the morgue. There are signs of Masonic intrigue and political plots at the highest levels. Ravel’s investigation takes him to the Royal Veterinary School and Honoré Fragonard’s Le Cavalier de l’Apocalypse, his ghoulish écorché masterpiece—a dried, preserved horse and rider—which turns out to be the key to the mystery.
Reading The Cavalier of the Apocalypse is like being in France just before the Revolution. Ms. Alleyn has managed to capture the spirit of the time in the angry squalor of the poor against the backdrop of titled privilege. But the story is not a social commentary—it never stops being a splendid mystery, packed with historical detail, red herrings, surprising twists, and even a little romance. If this is your first Aristide Ravel mystery you will want to dive into the sequels as soon as you can—promise. -- The Historical Novels Review
After two mysteries set in the aftermath of the French Revolution, Alleyn recounts how her series sleuth, Aristide Ravel, became a detective in this superb prequel set in 1786. ... Alleyn expertly captures the politics and atmosphere of the period, seamlessly integrating them into a traditional whodunit plot. --Publishers Weekly (starred review)
A series of detective stories tied to the French Revolution? It may sound odd, but Susanne Alleyn makes it work. ... The plot brings together everyone from the Masons to the duc d’Orléans, and Francophiles will appreciate the historic detail and rich atmospheric elements that abound. --The Christian Science Monitor
Finding an author who creates a good detective can be a great find, but when the author combines that with a multilevel plot and historical accuracy, the result is an absorbing, page-turning read. ... Alleyn's writing includes incredible historical detail about life in revolutionary France as well as exciting detective mysteries. --The Poughkeepsie Journal
Alleyn crafts expert traditional mysteries against formidable, colorful, meticulously rendered backdrops. -- The Poisoned Pen Bookstore
Alleyn’s third Ravel mystery is an absorbing outing, and fans of the previous two novels will be interested in seeing a pre-Revolution, radical-minded Aristide. --Booklist
A murder in 1786 Paris turns a hack writer into a first-rate detective. ... An intriguing prequel to Ravel’s revolutionary adventures with a nice twist in the denouement. --Kirkus Reviews
Known for her impeccable plotting and fully defined characters, Alleyn maintains her high standards here. --Library Journal (starred review)
Online Reviews & Features
Poughkeepsie Journal - "Three Mystery Series Worth Investigating" (at Stone Ridge Library newsletter)
Historicalnovels.info: Best historical novels of 2009
Review at Bookgasm.com
Review at StopYoureKillingMe.com
Review at ILoveaMysteryNewsletter.com
Review at ArmchairInterviews.com
"The Cavalier of the Apocalypse: The Movie" -- Fantasy casting at the CftAR Network (Campaign for the American Reader)
Cavalier undergoes "The Page 69 Test" at CftAR Network
Review at Historicalnovels.info
Mini-interview at the Historicalnovels.info blog (August 10, 2009)
Review: "Murder & Mayhem in Pre-Revolutionary Paris"