Books: Chasing the Chimera

THE GOUFFE CASE (434 pp.)-Joachim Maass-Harper ($4.95).

This new novel took 13 years to write and is well worth it. Based on an actual 1889 Paris murder, it offers a long, luxuriant plunge into the gaslit fin-de-siecle world, a time of clip-clopping hansom cabs, plush interiors, swan-necked women in little tilted hats, and dandified men ready to throw away their lives for love.

Sullen Lout. Gouffé, a well-to-do Parisian of respectable habits, vanishes and his brother-in-law Jacquemar appeals for help to Goron, the potbellied, hamster-cheeked chief of police. In some hundred pages of hard...

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