An epic tale of international crime and suspense at the dawn of the 20th century, when ordinary people were confronted for the first time with electricity, telephones, telegrams, radios, automobiles, airplanes, and revolutionary advances in science and medicine.
The story chronicles the deadly ambitions and lusts of a French businessman who amasses a fortune in pursuit of power during the Industrial Revolution, and a police detective determined to stop him. An ongoing chess game is a metaphor of the spiraling tension between them as the stakes continue to rise.
Emile Gerrault lifted himself from lowly beginnings as a street beggar in Paris to become one of the wealthiest industrialists in Europe. His insatiable appetite for power over the events and people in his life wane when he is confronted with his own mortality and his ambitions are reduced to merely staying alive.
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Rosemary Glenn Books
Rosemary Glenn Books
Marcel was ready to test his machine and Emile alerted French newspapers to assure that the great feat would not be overlooked. A crowd gathered in the field and watched, as Marcel's monoplane lifted itself off the ground
The demonstration was only partly successful. Onlookers considered that it didn't fly–it hopped. Marcel argued that the test fieldwas too short. If it had been longer, his machine would have stayed airborne for a greater distance. He was eager to begin repair of the monoplane. He would make a few changes and test it again in a larger field.
"No." Emile shook his head. "No more tests."
"But this was only the first one," Marcel argued.
"And the last."
"I will not have my name linked to failure."
"But it is the point of failure that establishes a machine's limits and–"
"No more failures." Emile shook his head.
"...but only by analyzing a series of failures, is it possible to define a machine's exact capabilities."
"You expect me to fund a series of failures?"
Marcel's voice quivered. "You must understand...I am an inventor."
"And I am an investor. I do not parade failure before a public gathering."
"Taloose will help you gather your things," Emile said with finality and left Marcel standing alone in the middle of the field. He vowed he would never again fund the dreams of an inventor. He would continue his financial support to advance science. At least at Pasteur's Institute, failures are confined within the walls of a laboratory. He would find other ways to align himself with the progress of technology. Perhaps a cash prize, but only after the fact, a reward for success. Let someone else pay for the failures.
A crowd gathered on the river bank and watched as a body was pulled from the water. No identifying papers were found. Without personal identification, there could be no obituary.
One man thought he'd seen the dead man before. Inspector Jean Lavasseur was positive he'd seen that face and it was not so long ago. It haunted him for the rest of the day. He reviewed photographs of criminals he'd brought in during the past month, to no avail.
Later, alone in his flat, Lavasseur brought out a scrapbook of motorcar events. He thumbed through the pages but found no photograph resembling the dead man. He placed the book back on the shelf and stroked his mustache. He thought for a moment, then took down another scrapbook. This one he kept to track the progress of flying inventions.
A clipping on the last page carried the story of a recent flight demonstration in Valenciennes. He'd pasted it less than a week ago. An accompanying photograph showed the smiling face of a young inventor, standing beside his mechanical bird. "That is him," Lavasseur exclaimed. "That is the face of the dead man." He reread the story carefully, this time noting the name of the would-be flyer: Marcel Demarais.
Another face in the photograph was identified as the aviator's sponsor. Lavasseur also knew that face. "Emile Gerrault," he said aloud, barely above a whisper. He removed the clipping and returned the book to its place on the shelf. He took down a new scrapbook, one he'd recently begun. It contained only one entry. Here he pasted the clipping of Marcel Demarais next to a newspaper account of Genevieve Delacourt's murder.
"There are two tragedies in life:
One is to lose your heart's desire;
The other is to gain it."
--George Bernard Shaw 1903