It’s not easy to add to a legendary set of tales like Alexandre Dumas’s stories about the Musketeers, but Sarah d’Almeida has done an admirable job in writing a new tale in that mythos with DEATH OF A MUSKETEER. d’Almeida (a nom de plume for novelist Sarah A. Hoyt) found a way to add stories by the expedient of “finding” a “previously unexplored manuscript” that purports to be in the various hands of the four Musketeers (being D’Artagnan, Athos, Aramis, and Porthos respectively). DEATH OF A MUSKETEER starts out with D’Artagnan, who’s recently come to Paris to start his career. His father gave him a note commending him to the Musketeers, but it’s been stolen before he meets up with Athos and the others along the road. D’Artagnan was told by his father that he should “fight as often as possible,” which is partly why he starts out by fighting Athos . . . that someone else breaks in on their duel and D’Artagnan must join forces with the three Musketeers or die helps them jell very quickly as compatriots and friends. (The obligatory drunken revel afterward only cements it further.)
But then, the four find the corpse of what appears to be a dead Musketeer — how could this have happened? And what, exactly, led to this remarkable event in the first place?
(Of course, if I told you all of that, that would blow the plotline something fierce, so I’ll stop there with a plot summary.)
Ms. d’Almeida captures the time, look, and ethos of France at the time of King Louis and Cardinal Richelieu effortlessly while adding greatly to the female characters that Dumas seemed to give short shrift; in particular, Porthos’ paramour Athenais is better-rounded and not played for laughs (as Dumas tended to do), instead being a woman of substance who’s unfortunately married to a man much her senior in years with few legal rights and many responsibilities.
Among the Musketeers, Athos’s plight is well-realized, while Aramis and Porthos become real men in three-dimensional life, while D’Artagnan’s youthful naïveté is shown in order to broaden and deepen him as a real, live human being (rather than “merely” an epic hero as Dumas played him). All of them become better friends while investigating the murder of the dead Musketeer, which of course makes perfect sense from a narrative background and is highly satisfying, besides. I appreciated all of these additions and believed they added greatly to the characterization of the Musketeers and their loved ones. This additional depth helps the story immeasurably without getting once in the way of the action — a neat trick, one which Ms. d’Almeida pulls off with great aplomb.
DEATH OF A MUSKETEER is a fast, fun, and furious tale that adds color and depth to Dumas’s best-known protagonists, especially with regards to the Musketeers’ romantic partners, and the added complexity is greatly welcome. I enjoyed this fine novel thoroughly and believe if you enjoy mysteries, sword fighting or most especially the tales of Alexandre Dumas and medieval/Renaissance France, you will love DEATH OF A MUSKETEER as much as I did.
–Reviewed by Barb