Day 419: The Bones of Paris

Cover for The Bones of ParisHappy Halloween! I tried to select a book that was appropriate for the occasion, although I didn’t have a ghost story lined up.

Laurie R. King’s series about Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes is very popular, but I prefer her Kate Martinelli series or, even better, some of her dark psychological stand-alone novels. Folly is my favorite. With The Bones of Paris, she brings some of that darker sensibility to what looks like the beginning of a new mystery series.

Harris Stuyvesant is an ex-FBI agent who has been scraping a living in Europe by taking private investigation work. Among the hordes of American expatriates in 1929 Paris, he is searching for a young woman, Pip Crosby, whose relatives have not heard from her in months. A cause for possible embarrassment or worse is that Harris met Pip in Nice the year before and had a brief fling with her. Ever since a disastrous incident that ended his career and cost him his fiancée, he has been living an aimless and bohemian existence.

Two of Harris’ first stops in his search for Pip are Pip’s flatmate, Nancy Berger, and the Paris Missing Persons Bureau. Nancy seems to have a hangover but is actually suffering the effects of travel. She just returned from an archaeological dig in Greece and has not seen Pip for months. Harris finds the police officer, Doucet, concerned about what may be a series of killings.

Harris’ attentions soon narrow on three men connected with the art world whose names keep surfacing in connection with Pip and who all have a fascination with the macabre. The artist Man Ray‘s photographs of Pip focus on a gruesome scar from an accident in her youth. Count Dominic de Charmentier is a wealthy patron of the arts who owns a theatre that alternates grotesque and frightening scenes with comic ones. He also hosts parties that feature macabre decorations and terrifying staged events. Didi Moreau is a creepy, disturbing artist who makes displays of found objects, including human bones. Pip has a few of these displays in her room, as well as some of Man Ray’s photographs. When Harris begins investigating these men more closely, he finds to his alarm that his ex-fiancée, Sarah Grey, is working as de Charmentier’s assistant.

King evokes the time and place with mastery, introducing us to a dissolute café culture populated with famous figures such as Cole Porter and Josephine Baker. She also cleverly raises the creep factor by interjecting short chapters about the bones that underlie parts of Paris, foreboding snippets of conversation, and other indications that something monstrous is going on behind the scenes of glittering nightlife.

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18 thoughts on “Day 419: The Bones of Paris

  1. Cecilia October 31, 2013 / 9:04 am

    Thanks for the introduction, especially to Folly. I love dark psychological stories!

  2. Turn the Page Reviews October 31, 2013 / 11:41 am

    I really enjoyed this book- I didn’t know it was a second-Touchstone was the first, I agree that she really bring the time period to life-great review!

    • whatmeread October 31, 2013 / 1:12 pm

      Yes, I just realized it was the second after I posted the review. I read Touchstone, but it must have been several years ago.

      • Turn the Page Reviews November 1, 2013 / 9:45 am

        Did you enjoy it? I want to read more from this author.

      • whatmeread November 1, 2013 / 9:48 am

        Yes, I did. I have read her for years, although I am not big on the Mary Russell series, mostly because Sherlock Holmes would never have married anyone. But I like her other books.

  3. Carolyn O October 31, 2013 / 3:16 pm

    This looks like creepy fun! By the way, I’m in awe of how many books you read. Amazing.

    • whatmeread October 31, 2013 / 3:26 pm

      This is totally misleading. I have a back log of notes about books I have read. Unfortunately, I am catching up with it, and then you’ll see how I’ll have to slow down. I started out with two years of notes, and now I am down to just the books I’ve read in the last couple of months. Oh, no! I’ll have to slow down in posting or think of other book-related things to write about.

      • Carolyn O October 31, 2013 / 3:27 pm

        Two years of notes — that’s amazing in and of itself 🙂

      • whatmeread October 31, 2013 / 3:33 pm

        It was one of my friend’s faults for buying me a book journal. Now I always keep one!

    • whatmeread November 1, 2013 / 7:46 am

      Oh, that’s an interesting link. I didn’t know about it!

  4. Audra (Unabridged Chick) November 5, 2013 / 10:24 am

    I’ve been dying to read this one — I once tried King’s Russell/Holmes books but it didn’t stick. I’ll look up Folly for sure — that one sounds deliciously gothic.

    • whatmeread November 5, 2013 / 10:27 am

      I really liked it, although I liked Folly more. I recently read a more negative review for it, but the blogger talked about how King didn’t have anything new to say about Paris at the time. I didn’t know much about Paris at the time, so I found it interesting. Everyone to his or her taste!

      • Audra (Unabridged Chick) November 5, 2013 / 10:29 am

        Interesting that the blogger thought something ‘new’ was needed — I don’t think I go into hist fic expecting something I’ve never known about a place or era. I care if the time isn’t evoked well, but don’t think I’m bothered if I haven’t learned something. Interesting — will have to note what jumps out at me when I read hist fic!

      • whatmeread November 5, 2013 / 10:32 am

        I feel exactly the same. I think it’s more important that a convincing feel of the time and place comes across. I absolutely hate bad attempts at an older dialect, heroines who behave like they are from the present time, or indications that the writer didn’t bother to research anything.

  5. carolwallace November 7, 2013 / 9:57 am

    So glad to know about this! I’m with you on Laurie R. King’s stand-alines. Sounds like great fun!

    • whatmeread November 7, 2013 / 9:58 am

      Oh, good, I hope you enjoy it!

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