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FranÇoise-AthÉnaÏs de Rochechouart de Mortemart had to have Louis, King of France, but his other mistresses stood in the way. Then she meets the very helpful sorceress and AthÉnaÏs gets her wish. But soon Louis hears tales of witchcraft and poison, a conspiracy spreading through his court—like the beasts in the Versailles menagerie, courtesans are clawing their way to his favor, and his bed. He orders Lieutenant General of Police Gabriel-Nicolas de la Reynie to investigate. Mysterious deaths mount while La Reynie presses on, hauling in witches, charlatans, and the nobility alike. Grimy fingers point to AthÉnaÏs, the King’s mistress, with whispers of a black mass celebrated over her naked body. Then La Reynie discovers a plot to kill her.
Read an Excerpt
They were about to alight when Athénaïs shrank back into the shadowed corner of the coach. “Look—could that be?” A man built with the broad shoulders and determination of a bull walked briskly past them towards the first coach in line.
Her maid gasped, but quickly squeezed Athénaïs’ hand. “I told you, madame, tout Paris consults the famous La Voisin. Come along, now.” In a rustle of brown silk, the laughing mademoiselle got out of the coach, followed by the wary Athénaïs.
They were greeted at the door by a girl of about fifteen, her frowzy hair peeking out of her lace-edged cap. “Bon soir, mesdames,” she curtseyed. “Please come into the parlor.” Light from a chandelier and a few candles pierced the shadows, reflected in a crystal ball on the tea table near the settee. Next to the crystal ball was a deck of tarot cards lying on a square of purple silk. “Please be seated,” the girl announced. “I will fetch my mother.”
“Isn’t this exciting,” whispered Mlle Claude as she looked around the room.
Athénaïs stared at the murky crystal ball. “How can anyone see anything in there?”
“Only someone with my gifts can see the future,” boomed a woman’s voice behind them.
Startled, both ladies turned to see La Voisin in the doorway. Although short and plump, she radiated authority in her magnificent sea-green velvet dress and crimson velvet cloak embroidered with hundreds of double-headed, wingspread eagles. Even her slippers were stitched with gold thread in the same motif. What stunned Athénaïs were the woman’s eyes: black as night, so piercing as to invade one’s soul.
About the Author:
Judy Willmore is a former journalist, then private investigator, and now a psychotherapist who practices in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Her historical mystery The Menagerie was published in 2021 by Artemesia Press, and she is now working on a sequel.
The book is on sale for only $0.99.