I grew up in the extreme northern reaches of New York State. That being said, there was this lovely but decrepit chalet-type home that sat on the outer border of of small town called Fort Covington (near Massena, my hometown) that had the legend of the lost Dauphin attached to it. I was always intrigued by the legend that Louis-Charles, the son of Marie Antoinette and Louis the XVI was somehow spirited away from the Jacobin prison in which he and his sister were held. The story goes that royalists helped him flee prison, cross the Atlantic and settle in anonymity in a rural backwater in order to keep him from forces that would see him dead. I wondered and built fantastic stories in my mind how a prince might be guarded by faithful and monied allies and sent to safety to live out his life away from the horror that he'd surely witnessed during the Reign of Terror.
Finding Louis Bayard's rollicking story about the legend of the lost Dauphin, a rowdy, raucous French detective called Eugene Vidocq that has a penchant for outlandishly accurate disguises, a young doctor who is pioneering the study venereal disease at a time when it was ravaging the French elite, and a young French gardener who is mysteriously innocent for one his age was such a fun experience! This mystery/historical thriller is masterfully written and even more masterfully narrated. It was wonderful!
I'll not spoil the storyline by giving away plot, but just know that there is murder, subterfuge, hidden relics of the Reign of Terror and the following Napoleonic era, royals and gentry who are less than honest about their past, bawdy humor, and wonderful characters that are endearing. Great read, even better listen. Simon Vance is a professional reader for the Royal National Institute for the Blind as well as a radio announcer for the BBC radio ... he does an incredible job developing the character of Vidocq. His command at reading and interpreting the story is just stellar!
Okay .. have I gushed enough ? If you're doing a road trip, working at home at a sit-down project or puttering in the kitchen this would be a worthy audio experience. I'm off to return the 'book' to the library and check out another by Louis Bayard.