MUTE WITNESS by Charles O'Brien
Poisoned Pen Press - May 2001
ISBN: 1890208620 - Hardcover

Reviewed by Rachel Hyde, MyShelf.Com
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Paris, 1786 and the Eve of the Revolution.  Thoroughly modern Anne Cartier works as an actress in London until she hears of the death of her father and his mistress in a supposed murder-suicide and so she hastens to find out whodunit and why.  With her is the aristocratic Colonel Paul de Saint-Martin who works for the Royal Highway Patrol who knew Anne as a child when she and her father performed at their chateau.  The case will take them to the most decadent areas of society and into a web of secrets and corruption where the only key to the mystery seems to be a deaf mute seamstress.  Anne will need to use her new skills as a teacher of the deaf as well as all her wits in order to crack this case.

This is one fun book with much of the sparkle of an old swashbuckling adventure story although the multi-talented Anne seems to have too many skills and too much swash and buckle to seem very real; the book's one major fault.  She is an actress, high-wire artist, dancer, singer, teacher of the deaf, good shot with a gun, beautiful and gallops about on horseback wearing breeches.  Pick any two of these - three at a pinch - and you will have a fine heroine.  Pick them all and you have some sort of unrealistic superbeing.  This is a pity and the story is so entertaining that it is carried along regardless as O'Brien obviously excels at describing French 18th century social conditions from palaces to slums and here he has plenty of material to work with and the result is a highly suspenseful tale; well plotted and full of surprises and highly detailed descriptions that made it
spring to vivid life.  but perhaps it would be wise to tone down Anne a little for the second volume - or booksellers will have to file it under fantasy!

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