In this award-winning piece of historical fiction, the reader is transported to Eighteenth Century Paris. The protagonist is a young engineer called Jean-Baptiste from rural France who is given the job of clearing and emptying the huge cemetery of Les Innocents at the heart of Paris. The volume of bodies is causing a stink for the surrounding houses and shops, but that does not mean that everyone is keen on their removal.
Jean-Baptiste recruits a group of miners to carry out the task, hardened, quiet men. There are accidents, attempted murder, rape and romance, and much else along the way. The subject is one that is unusual and interesting, and Andrew Miller manages to find a suitable balance of tone and personal intrigue so that it does not become depressing or heavy.