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The musketeer’s apprentice

Sarah D’Almeida

314 pages
Berkley Publishing Group - 2007 - États-Unis
Policier - Roman

Intérêt: **

 

Après Death of a musketeer et The musketeer’s seamstress, Sarah D’Almeida poursuit sa série de polars mettant en scène les quatre mousquetaires. Les deux premiers volumes donnaient la vedette respectivement à Athos et Aramis: celui-ci est clairement centré sur Porthos.

Au début du livre, on apprend que Porthos initie à l’art de l’escrime un jeune garçon d’une douzaine d’années, Guillaume Jaucourt. Sorti de nulle part, celui-ci a débarqué chez Porthos en le menaçant de révéler à tout le monde la véritable identité du mousquetaire. En échange de son silence, il voulait donc des leçons d’escrime… Cette terrible menace n’a guère ému Porthos, qui ne considère pas son anonymat comme un secret d’Etat, mais, touché par l’ardeur du garçon, il a accepté de lui donner des cours.

Or, voilà que Guillaume est en retard pour sa leçon du jour et que Porthos, parti à sa recherche, le retrouve dans la rue, assassiné, empoisonné. Détail surprenant: l’enfant a dans sa poche la généalogie complète de Porthos (pas aussi prestigieuse que le mousquetaire voudrait le faire croire, d’ailleurs…).

Dès lors, les mousquetaires s’attaquent à ce mystère. Ils trouvent l’endroit où vivait Guillaume: une auberge où il était domestique avec sa petite sœur.

Leur enquête les mène aussi chez un noble qui a fait travailler Guillaume un moment. Ils découvrent que la mère de l’enfant, qui fut servante dans la même auberge avant de mourir, était originaire du village de Porthos: il apparaît en fait que cette dernière, Amélie, n’était autre qu’une fille du village dont Porthos, jeune homme, était épris. Et Guillaume est tout simplement le fils naturel de Porthos!

Reste que tout cela n’explique pas l’assassinat de l’enfant. Les mousquetaires lancent leur enquête de façon totalement désordonnée, en essayant de deviner qui pouvait avoir intérêt à un tel meurtre, plutôt qu’en s’appuyant sur les faits.

Considérant que le motif le plus plausible est le désir de compromettre Porthos (en faisant croire qu’il aurait tué Guillaume pour l’empêcher de révéler son arbre généalogique moins prestigieux qu’il voudrait), ils envisagent différents coupables: Richelieu, comme toujours, M. Coquenard, le mari trompé de l’amie de Porthos, qui serait jaloux, un cousin de Porthos qui convoiterait son héritage, etc…

Autant de suppositions sans aucun fondement tangible, qui ne plaident guère en faveur des capacités de déduction des mousquetaires. L’explication finale n’a rien à voir avec tout cela et se révèle, comme dans les volumes précédents, plutôt décevante.

 

Tout comme les premiers volumes de la série, The musketeer’s apprentice est un roman policier médiocre. En revanche, l’auteur prend un plaisir manifeste, et communicatif, à explorer l’univers des mousquetaires. Là, nous apprenons beaucoup de choses sur Porthos, sa jeunesse, sa famille. Les scènes montrant le mousquetaire retournant dans son village quitté depuis de longues années, retrouvant le château familial croulant où vit son père qui l’a renié, et renouant avec ses amis d’enfance, sont très réussies.

Dans ce volume, Porthos se révèle un grand sentimental. Il ne se pardonne pas d’avoir abandonné Amélie sans savoir qu’elle attendait un enfant de lui et a le plus grand mal à se remettre de la mort de son fils Guillaume, auquel il s’était beaucoup attaché sans même connaître son identité.

La série conserve donc tout son charme, en dépit de la faiblesse des intrigues. Les volumes suivants s'intitulent A death in Gascony et Dying by the sword. L'auteur a également écrit une histoire de vampires tournant autour des mousquetaires, Sword and blood.

 

 Voir l'arbre généalogique de Porthos

 

Extrait du chapitre The Domains of a Provincial Lord; A Paternal Welcome; When Winning a Duel Would Be the Worst Thing

Meanwhile Porthos applied his huge fist to the door, making it shake and groan under his pounding. It seemed like an eternity before dragging steps were heard from within and, at long last, a woman opened the door. She was small and withered and grey haired, attired in a dress of undyed wool. For a horrified moment—given their different sizes—Athos wondered if this was Porthos's mother.

But then the little colorless face set itself in an expression of disbelief, and the pale blue eyes, which also gave an impression of colorlessness opened wide. "Milord," she said. "Monsieur Pierre."

"Marie," Porthos said, and smiled, pulling the little woman to him. Then he turned to his friends and said, "This is Marie, who was my nursemaid. My mother died at my birth, so Marie raised me. You may blame her for anything you don't like in my behavior."

"Your behavior," Marie said, looking up, horrified, as though thinking that anyone who had anything to say to her nursling's behavior must find it unexceptionable. "You were always the best child and the best of young men. Raised him as my own, I did," she said, turning to the others and smiling. "And he never gave me any trouble, really, but Pierre..." She looked at Porthos with real worry. "Why did you come back? Your father has declared that your name shall not be mentioned in this house."

"My father has?" Porthos asked, puzzled. "But... why? When I left I only did what he told me to, and I've done nothing to shame him or—"

The woman shook her head. "It is the boy, Pierre. Your boy. When you sent him here, how could you think that he would be well received, and by your father, yet? But you always were a bighearted fool."

"The boy? He came here? He ...?"

From within came a thunderous voice. "Who are you speaking with at the door, you fool of a woman? Who would you occupy yourself with that way?"

Marie shrieked and stepped back and the door was fully thrown open. In opening, it revealed a hall such as Athos had only seen in the oldest of manor houses—a vast, resounding, echoing space, paved in stones, with a vast hearth burning bright at its center, vast enough for the hundreds of knights and thousands of vassals who would cower in here when the enemy threatened and rounded on the fields outside. But this hall was empty and echoing dark, except for the fire in the center which seemed to cast more shadows than light into spaces one felt had been little used.

Out of that darkness, pierced by fiery reflections from the flames, a man strode. He was as tall as Porthos, white haired, with flashing grey eyes, and he might have been the fire god of some forgotten mythology. As he advanced on them, his gaze found Porthos, then slid away from him, while his features set in seething rage.

"What do you want, gentlemen?" he asked. "This is not a hostelry, nor a common house, such as you might be used to. It's a manor house and a poor enough one that we can't put up strangers as our guests. Go and find yourself some place to spend the night. It won't be here."

Athos had only to look to his right to see Porthos standing still, pale, as though struck by a thunderbolt, and no more able to defend himself than a child when confronted by an adult. That his father had, assuredly, been Porthos's size once himself, was obvious. The past strength was still there, in arms knotted with muscles protruding from what looked like a short-sleeved peasant shirt. The breeches below ended just beneath the knees leaving equally muscular legs exposed. He wore what Athos could only presume to be some sort of hunting boot, in a style that hadn't been fashionable for centuries. But such as he was and such as he stood — his feet apart, his arms crossed on his chest, his gaze threatening to call down Olympian thunderbolts — still, he had lost mass and probably strength. He stooped. The hair was all white save where the reflection of the red fire gave it back lost color. And Athos suspected that if the hall were better lit, it would show the man was wasted and weak.


 

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