Set in Paris on the verge of WWI, Sarah Smith’s A Citizen of the Country unfolds three mysteries. In one, a father announces he was once a murderer, but of whom and why lie shrouded in darkness; in another, that father’s friend André, an actor who specializes in the macabre, is said to be mad; and in the last, a member of André’s acting troupe is blackmailed and told to find ”the secret of Montfort,” an estate owned by André’s father.
These puzzles converge when the three men go to Montfort, along with André’s estranged wife, his father (a military hero turned actor), and thousands of soldier/ extras for a war propaganda film. Of course, there is more murder — not to mention blackmail and witchcraft — ahead. Meanwhile, both on film and in Montfort’s underground tunnels, psychological and factual barriers fall, until the truth is revealed. Though full of authentic detail, this isn’t a typical ”historical novel,” but rather proof that certain human conditions — the public and private face of heroism, the complicated love we feel for family — are the same no matter the century.