During what is known as the belle epoque, crime flourished in France as elsewhere, and this book deals with certain acts of culpable homicide though large scale embezzlement is also considered.
Close attention is paid to the bomb outrages of the 90's, the tireless child strangler Jeanne Weber, the first motorised hold ups by the Bonnot gang and even the early activities of Landru.
But the principal thread of the narrative is provided by two famous cases, in both which a woman was acquitted. In the case of Mme Steinheil, one of the two victims was a husband. Mme Caillaux shot the editor of Le Figaro in his office for carrying out a campaign of vilification against her husband, a former Prime Minister. The politics involved are skilfully unravelled, and so is the legal tangle which sent Dreyfus to Devil's Island.
Original in its impressionistic approach, the book is also persuasive historically. It is often funny and frequently exciting, even frightening - not a bad recommendation in view of the subject