In tumultuous late 19th century France, persecuted Jews fled to the town of Nancy, where they have prospered and have found acceptance; however, their security begins to unravel upon the discovery of a gruesomely murdered baby. The baby’s nanny declares that a Jew is responsible for this ghastly homicide and the story spreads through the French newspapers like wildfire. The investigation is passed on to Bernard Martin, a Republican Judge whose personal struggles necessitate that the case be solved quickly.
Adding further pressure to the case is the Dreyfus affair, occurring at the same time and fueling hysteria and thus danger for all Jews in France. As Bernard’s investigation moves forward, he struggles to reconcile his beliefs with his growing knowledge of Nancy’s Jewish communities. He represents the face of justice and reason against insane, vigilante injustice, the face that respects genuine belief in the most adverse situations. The Blood of Lorraine is a fascinating read, exploring religious, social, and political thinking, propaganda, and prejudice.
Pope improves on her 2008 debut, Cezanne's Quarry, which also featured magistrate Bernard Martin, in this fascinating look at the rise of antisemitism in France after the arrest of Capt. Alfred Dreyfus for treason in 1894. Now transferred to Nancy, the capital of Alsace, Martin doesn't relish investigating a politically sensitive case--the murder of seven-month-old Marc-Antoine Thomas, whose parents claim that a Jew killed and mutilated their son--that Martin's Jewish colleague, David Singer, insists that Martin take over. When a prominent member of the Jewish community, Victor Ullmann, is later bludgeoned to death, the magistrate fears that it was a revenge killing. Martin must also deal with a devastating personal tragedy as pressure to solve the Ullmann case mounts. Pope, a historian, more than compensates for a not fully satisfying ending with a complex lead and the skill with which she makes the anti-Semitic atmosphere of the times both palpable and tragically prophetic.
University of Oregon professor Barbara Corrado Pope's excellent The Blood of Lorraine (Pegasus, 367 pp., $25), set in Alsace in the final years of the 19th century, finds magistrate Bernard Martin reluctantly accepting the case of a couple who claim that their infant son was ritually killed by a Jew a tragedy that ominously echoes the Dreyfus Case, a real-life incident involving the anti-Semitic persecution of a distinguished soldier.
-Susan O. Moritz, Montgomery Cty. P.L., MD
Copyright 2010 Reed Business Information.
Making Civil Hands Unclean
Violent religion in Barbara Corrado Pope’s Blood of Lorraine
How to behave, how to love, how to judge, how to grieve — and how to deal with injustice. All human questions, some connected to where those humans live, and what they believe.
Barbara Corrado Pope’s new mystery concerns itself as much with terroir as any issue of Wine Spectator. This terroir equals the soil of France, specifically the land of Lorraine, a disputed area retained after the Franco-Prussian War while Alsace went to the German winners.
Questions of nationhood and religion intertwine in this second book
Pope, who knows how to do her research, bases all of this on actual historical documents, ones that might not sound so antiquated to those who know what’s happening to immigrants in the U.S. or those who can link the madness of anti-Semitic rants from that time to the dreck motivating white supremacists and neo-Nazis today.
The ...complex, unexpected reality echoes with certain developments in our own, much more heavily immigrant society.
...The book’s mixed currents clearly resonate with life in the 21st century but are grounded securely within the upheavals of the their time. Bernard Martin’s struggles remain compelling enough ...And relationships among people of different classes and religions and backgrounds, co-workers and friends and family make The Blood of Lorraine a compelling read about humans dealing with the bloody birth of the 20th century.
In the province of Lorraine, young judge Bernard Martin reluctantly agrees to take over a case assigned to his colleague David Singer. An unidentified Jew stands accused of killing and mutilating a Christian baby. The controversial Dreyfus case has brought virulent anti-Semitism to the forefront in 1894 France. Having only recently moved from Provence to Nancy with his pregnant wife Clarie, Martin is loath to seem uncooperative so early in his tenure. He uses all his courtroom skills in questioning Genevieve Philipon, wet nurse of the murdered child Marc-Antoine, and quickly gets her to recant her implausible story and confess her involvement as an accomplice. She admits that, while he was unattended, the curious baby swallowed a coal. His parents, Pierre and Antoinette Thomas, mutilated the baby and made his death look like a ritual murder. When Martin brings the couple in, they staunchly protest their innocence, and public outrage against the judiciary intensifies. But Martin stands firm in his conviction of their guilt. Shortly after the conditional release of Pierre and Antoinette, Victor Ullmann, the Jewish owner of the mill where Pierre works, is found murdered, and suspicion falls squarely upon Pierre, who seems to have vanished.
Bernard's second case (Cézanne's Quarry, 2008) gracefully transports the reader to its liveried era and broadens the story's appeal with characters of substance and depth.