This is my first summer read recommended here (Thank you!). I enjoy short, specialized history books, and this one had the advantage of reading like a novel. It was a pleasure learning about the various advisors and intriguers surrounding Louis XIV, so much so, in fact, that it could have been a good read even without the poisonings. The complex machinations and complete lack of qualms on the part of unhappy wives and mistresses throughout made for compelling reading, but by the time I got to the torture scenes near the close of the book, I was ready to move on. We owe much of the story to the copious note-taking of chief-of-police Nicolas de La Reynie and the later revelations of Marie-Marguerite Voisin, whose mother, Catherine, was a notorious poisoner and abortionist. The bleak world of Voisin provides a counterpoint to the excesses of the court, and it’s the symbiotic relationship of these two worlds that lends this story its poignancy.
Review Submitted by: Eric Blomquist
Challenge: Published in 2017