Sarah Hoyt is a Facebook friend and a fellow Baen author. Aside from her SF work, she has produced, under the nom de plume (a particularly appropriate term in this case) Sarah D’Almeida, a seies of novels about Alexandre Dumas’s Three Musketeers. These are mysteries, and have been inserted directly into the timeline of that classic novel. The Musketeer’s Seamstress, second in the series, occurs shortly after D’Artagnon meets his swashbuckling friends, but (if I understand correctly) before all the bother about the queen’s diamonds.
Aramis, the romantic musketeer destined for the church, is at the palace, dallying with his mistress, a lady of the court whom he refers to with his friends as his “seamstress.” He steps out of the chamber for a moment. When he returns, he finds her dead, a dagger through her heart. Like so many idiots in mysteries, he pulls the dagger out, getting blood all over his hands. When he hears people at the door, he makes a leap from the balcony onto a convenient tree and then manages to get away over a wall – stark naked. He is fortunate enough to find his friends Athos, Porthos, and D’Artagnon at guard at one of the gates, and they help make his escape. Cardinal Richelieu, who seems to cherish a particular dislike for Aramis, sets a hunt going, but Aramis manages to get away to his home estate, while his friends try to uncover how an “impossible” murder was committed.
The author, I think, did an interesting job with the familiar characters. She invents back story material for them that Dumas only hinted at, and as far as I can remember it’s pretty consistent with his portrayals. I particularly like the character of Porthos, who is envisioned as a man not stupid, but simply plain-minded and practical. Which makes it possible for him – sometimes – to see things his subtler friends miss.
I felt a certain tension in the insertion of a whodunnit into what is essentially an action/adventure setting. The action is quite good when it happens, but a lot of the book involves people just thinking and discussing matters, which struck me as a little incongruous. However, as I said, I liked what was done with the characters, so such scenes were not without interest.
I wouldn’t rate The Musketeer’s Seamstress as a top-shelf book, either as an actioner or a mystery, but it was an enjoyable read, and I had a good time reacquainting myself with what is, perhaps, the archetypal male-bonding group in all literature.