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A Man in Uniform    by Kate Taylor order for
Man in Uniform
by Kate Taylor
Order:  USA  Can
Crown, 2011 (2011)
Hardcover, e-Book

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* *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Kate Taylor, award-winning author of Mme Proust and the Kosher Kitchen, now turns her eye to the infamous Dreyfus affair in A Man in Uniform, set in late nineteenth-century Paris.

Protagonist François Dubon is a lawyer whose comfortable and affluent present hides a more radical past, when he worked on behalf of the Communards. He easily juggles his undemanding job (drafting wills and contracts), a mistress (Madeleine) whom he maintains in an apartment and visits daily, and his wife Geneviève and son André. Member of a well connected military family, Geneviève also had a rebellious streak when she was younger, one that led her to marry Dubon.

Dubon's rather self-satisfied life is disrupted by a mysterious and attractive widow who asks him to take on Dreyfus' case and prove his innocence. Accused of spying, the Jewish artillery captain 'languishes on Devil's Island', where he's been for over two years. Dubon agrees to make enquiries. Almost against his will, he's pulled into an investigation, rediscovering his younger self in the process. But who is the widow and what is her real connection to Dreyfus?

Dubon contacts a reporter, who writes about military affairs under the byline Azimut Martin and seems more objective than others about the case. He also consults his old friend Masson, who works for the Foreign Ministry. He learns that a Major Henry of the Statistical Section came up with the evidence that convicted Dreyfus. Learning that the Section runs counterespionage ops, and borrowing a uniform his brother-in-law has left at his home, Dubon poses as a clerk and infiltrates the group for several weeks. He discovers that key evidence against Dreyfus was forged.

While he's obsessed with the case, Dubon's relationships with both Madeleine and Geneviève (who demands that he abandon the case) deteriorate. He's followed by a detective and he stumbles upon the corpse of a key witness. There are more deaths. Dubon himself is imperilled - from a surprising source - and he finally learns his client's name. A Man in Uniform is a credible, well written historical that brings both the period - and the scandal that rocked the French nation - to life.

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