Paul Cézanne is often credited as one of the creators of modern art as he moved away from impressionism about the time this story takes place. While this is a work of fiction, it does represent Cézanne reasonably well.
This is a murder mystery, but one set in France in 1885. It is also a social commentary on popular ideas of the day, as well as a look at the state of the art of policing in France in that period. The case was given to the only magistrate left in the city in August, magistrate Bernard Martin, a man of small means and few social connections–in short, a man of whom little was expected.
At that time, crime detection was directed by a magistrate who could become as involved as he needed to be. Martin took up the challenge and did the job that would today fall to the lead detective of the police.
As Martin uncovers facts, Cézanne is the prime suspect, but before he can be arrested, an Englishman enters the picture. Charles Westbury is a follower of Darwin and is busy trying to prove the ancient status of his digs. Westbury becomes a second suspect.
From there, the plot gets complicated.
Barbara Corrado Pope is a PhD in the Social and Intellectual History of Europe who happens to enjoy mysteries. She has written three of her own now, making full use of her scholarly knowledge. Trust me, this is not a PhD thesis. Her storytelling is as good as it gets.