August 28, 2013

Beneath the paving stones, the bones

By Laurie R. King
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Readers who enjoy Laurie R. King's noteworthy Mary Russell/Sherlock Holmes mystery series are in for a surprise and a major departure in tone with her new novel. In The Bones of Paris, the sequel to King’s 2007 standalone novel Touchstone, not-to-be-messed-with American investigator Harris Stuyvesant returns and once again looms large: He’s determined, melancholy and attractive to women, but he’s also a liar and dissembler with a hair-trigger temper, and he just can’t seem to learn from his own mistakes.

Stuyvesant is living abroad in 1920s Paris, but don’t expect flowers and flappers and flighty entertainment. He is investigating the disappearance of a young American woman with whom he had a brief romantic affair several months prior. He soon learns that she’s one of many who have recently vanished from Paris without a trace and are now presumed dead, and it looks a lot like murder. The Bones of Paris takes readers on a deadly journey into the boneyards and catacombs beneath the streets of Paris, sparing us nothing and introducing a killer who dispatches his victims cruelly, without fanfare and without remorse.

Though he prefers working alone, Stuyvesant joins forces with Doucet, a Parisian detective in charge of missing persons, who has been working to discover a pattern in the unsolved disappearances. In searching for clues, both men are drawn to the denizens of the Paris art community and into its Surrealist shadows. They must investigate whether the missing persons cases are connected to a reclusive Paris artist who uses bones—both human and animal—in his disturbing works of art displayed throughout the city, and they seek to discover the role played by the Grand Guignol theater, where simulated horrors becomes titillating entertainment for the city’s sophisticates.

In this engrossing tale, King brings to glittering life a decadent Paris roiling in the aftermath of World War I. She describes the seedy secrets of the Montparnasse art crowd, introducing cameos by well-known figures of the time—including a pugnacious Ernest Hemingway, American expat and bookstore proprietor Sylvia Beach, the notorious Surrealist Man Ray and his lover Lee Miller—cleverly weaving the characters into the book’s dark tapestry. The author provides illuminating historical details and nuances as Paris, sliding toward the brink of another great war, becomes one of the book’s most provocative characters.

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The Bones of Paris

The Bones of Paris

By Laurie R. King
ISBN 9780345531766

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