Eighteenth-century eroticism and bloody history in a literary biblio-thriller
A garter belonging to Marie Antoinette and a collection of pornographic sonnets by Pietro Aretino have roles to play in the latest thriller from Dutch-Flemish writing team Kisling & Verhuyck. Black Lace grippingly combines the history of the French Revolution with a blood feud in a village in the Dordogne.
Anyone who is tired of the standard plots of literary thrillers – woman takes revenge on bad guys, likeable inspector solves murder mystery, journalist unravels political conspiracy – is sure to enjoy Black Lace, a well-written whodunnit that begins with a mysterious death in a French castle.
Nora Blanker works at a prominent antiquarian bookshop in Amsterdam. During her holiday, she takes part in a philologists’ conference about eighteenth-century pamphlets at a castle in the Périgord. Then the body of a professor who was supposed to give a talk on erotic cartoons is found lying on a four-poster bed that once belonged to the last French king… As the police investigate whether the professor was murdered, the organisers of the conference quickly try to find a replacement for him. The talk subsequently given by this substitute sets in motion a stream of events that ends in violence and bloodshed. In the meantime, the reader has learned all kinds of interesting details about the French Revolution, the tragic fate of Marie Antoinette, the medieval troubadours and the art of printing.
Kisling & Verhuyck’s Black Lace, whose title refers to the garter that Marie Antoinette was wearing when she died on the guillotine, is a literary variation on the work of Agatha Christie, Dan Brown and Ross King. Although royal relics play a role in their novel, much of the intrigue involves a rare copy of Aretino’s sonnets. Knowledge of the Middle Ages and early-modern period permeates the entire book, without ever breaking the tension or spoiling the pleasure – because the authors have succeeded in presenting their plot in a most elegant fashion.