Day 1096: Lockdown

Cover for LockdownAlthough King is best known for her Mary Russell/Sherlock Holmes mysteries, it is her stand-alone thrillers that have really appealed to me. I think her Folly is one of the best of its genre. However, if Lockdown hadn’t been written by Laurie R. King, I probably wouldn’t have chosen to read it. The subject, a violent incident at a middle school, wouldn’t normally appeal to me.

The staff and students of Guadalupe school are preparing for Career Day. They have had a tough year in which one student’s sister was murdered by a gang banger, another student is a witness against him, and another student, a young girl named Bee, disappeared without a trace.

Linda McDonald, the school principal, is most concerned about whether the day will come off. She is hoping to inspire some of her mostly impoverished students with career ambitions, and hope for the future.

Gordon Kendrick, Linda’s husband, has a past that may be coming back to haunt him after he is mentioned in the publicity for Career Day. Another adult who is hoping to stay under the radar is Tio, the school janitor.

link to NetgalleySeveral of the students are clearly troubled. But 8th grader Brendan Atchison, the son of a successful entrepreneur, is plotting something drastic that involves another person.

Although the novel employs a technique that I recently found irritating in Salt to the Sea, the rapid shifting of point of view between short sections, it works much better in Lockdown, building true suspense. At first, I was more interested in the story of what happened when Linda met Gordon in New Zealand than in the plot about the school, but I finally decided that this is another fine suspense novel by Laurie R. King.

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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.