Good characterization and good period detail make Judith Rock’s The Rhetoric of Death an engaging read. It’s France, 1686, in the middle of Louis XIV’s secretly continued persecution of the Protestant Huguenots. Jesuit father-in-training Charles du Lac connives at the escape to Protestant Switzerland of Huguenot cousin (and childhood love) Pernelle. For his — and their — own safety fearful relatives hustle him out of southern France to Paris, where he takes up a position at the Jesuit college Louis Le Grand. Trouble follows him, however — a student is murdered, the student’s brother attacked, and Charles is caught up in a power-play between religion and politics that reaches as high as the Sun King’s own court, and he must navigate it safely and see the guilty brought to justice if he and his family are to survive.
In the author’s note Rock says, “I have tried to make the story’s people true to their own century, and not just us in costume.” She succeeded.