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Wednesday, 21 August 2013

Murder on the Rue Cassette, Preview!

Due out in Kindle in October, the paperback to follow, Susan Russo Anderson gives us a sneak preview of her latest book, Murder on the Rue Cassette.

Against the backdrop of the First Impressionist exhibit in Paris, Elena, Countess of Oltramari is shot to death in the Rue Cassette. Elena’s husband, Loffredo—also Serafina’s lover—is charged with her murder and awaiting trial. Serafina travels to Paris to investigate Elena’s death and uncovers the shocking truth about the dead woman’s life in the city of love and light. Will Serafina succeed in finding the murderer and freeing Loffredo before they are both killed?

April 15, 1874. A group of painters rejected by the Salon hang their works in a studio on the Boulevard des Capucines. Elena, a Sicilian countess estranged from her husband and living in Paris for the past seven years, attends the opening with her latest flame. She counts many of these painters as her friends, some as her former lovers. As she views their paintings, she is in awe of their explosive color, their exciting lines, the quality of the light. “They will change how the world sees,” a friend tells her, and Elena longs to paint with their talent. Three hours later, her body is identified in the Rue Cassette, fatally shot in the left temple. Her husband, Loffredo, also Serafina’s lover, is charged with her murder and awaits trial in prison.
Serafina is commissioned to investigate the countess’s death. Given a large retainer, the sleuth and her entourage travel to Paris where they stay at the luxurious Hôtel du Louvre then located on the Place du Palais Royal. They dine at the finest restaurants and bistros including Maison Dorée, La Tour d’Argent, Le Procope, and Bofinger. Berthe Morisot, Victorine Meurent, Paul Cézanne, Auguste Renoir, Camille Pissarro, Édouard Manet, Stéphane Mallarmé, Camille Saint-Saëns, and other notables make cameo appearances as Serafina interviews friends of the countess. At the same time she discovers bits and pieces of the truth concerning the dead woman and attempts to convince Alphonse Valois, her counterpart at La Sûreté Nationale, of Loffredo’s innocence. As the plot twists and turns, Serafina and her friends find themselves in the dangerous grip of a mind gone feral. Will Serafina succeed in finding the murderer and freeing Loffredo before they are both killed?

Prologue, Murder On The Rue Cassette

Paris, April 1874

Elena breathed in, dazzled by the paintings. They made her world come alive with color and shape and movement. Their achievement was glorious. Divine. The war and the Commune seemed distant memories. France had arisen from its ashes, shimmering in a glorious rebirth before her eyes, the brightness of the works blinding her to everything else.
Her friends had labored so hard and for so many years, shunned by the Salon and their stuffy convention. God knew many of the critics had derided them. Fools. Yet the painters persisted. At the last moment, a studio was offered, a space in which to exhibit their work. Turning slowly, she regarded one, then another and another. Paintings by Degas, Pissarro, Cézanne, Monet, Renoir, Morisot, and a host of other artists she did not know and who did not know her. Not yet.
Elena shut her eyes, drunk with the heady mix of linseed oil, varnish, and dreams. Perhaps next year, she too would have a canvas ready to hang if she put her mind to it. That’s what one of her friends told her. But she must steal away from the crowd. She must prepare, and finally she’d have the recognition she deserved. She’d be a part of the grand sweep of history and in Paris where she belonged. Her heart swelled.
From the moment they entered the room, she’d seen his discomfort as he scanned the paintings. It was obvious to her that he did not understand them. The chatter stopped, and she felt a hundred eyes on them as they made their way through the crowd. His clothes ill-suited the event, and he hadn’t known what to say. He’d avoided her glances.
A mistake, their coming. Especially since several of her ex-lovers were there, some of them boorish in their celebration. Painters and poets, after all, and in Paris—what did he expect?
In time perhaps she’d cure him of himself. If they remained lovers, that is. But she wanted to be seen with him tonight of all nights, a special night, and she had not wanted their affair to be kept a secret, not any longer. Ragged eyes, how they revealed his soul. She knew she’d remember them long after she’d cooled toward him. Well, she would just have to make it up to him. She knew how to do that.
She was awakened from her reverie by his knock. A black-suited servant opened the door.
“You are home, sir. Very good, sir.”
She waited for him in the parlor. Bourgeois. Disgusting to find such taste, and in Paris of all places.
“You shouldn’t have come home with me. We’ve discussed this,” he said, “not when the servants are here.”
“You’re too cautious.” She kissed him hard, grinding into him. “Where’s your butler? Let’s couple in front of him. Give him something delicious to think about.”
That would melt his reserve. She knew how to handle famous men, and he was one of them, admired, lionized for his learning. He had his own following, the hangers on, the simple creatures. But this was Paris, where such things mattered, and he excited her, so different from the others. She must be brazen.
“In my belly, a seed of our love. I am two.” She kissed him again. His misgivings seemed to melt. She knew they would. Each time she thought of ending their liaison, the strength of his passion quelled her doubts. Besides, she needed him tonight. No, it must continue, at least until the child is born. By then, she had no doubt her ardor would cool. It drifted already. There was too much life to taste, and she could not stop for longer than the spirit lingered. What was left would be a husk, the dregs of life. Few people understood that, but Elena was one of the lucky ones.
“Wait for me,” he said. “I must ready myself before we go.”

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The cover for Murder on the Rue Cassette was designed by Cathy Helms from Avalon Graphics

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