Saturday, September 14, 2013
The Bones of Paris
Adult Historical Mystery
Source: Received an e-ARC from the publisher through Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.
Apparently I may sometimes lack reading comprehension because I totally thought this was the latest Mary Russell/Sherlock Holmes book. I kept waiting for them to pop up and orient me in the story! Then I finally looked at it on goodreads and discovered that it is a second book (which helps explain why I felt a bit off balance while reading-presumably someone who has read the first book would be able to follow it more easily.)
The book opens with Bennett Grey, who played a big role in the introductory book but meant nothing to me so it was not until we meet Harris Stuyvesant and I realized that he was the main character that I was able to settle into the story. Harris is a down on his luck private investigator who has been hired by a young woman's worried uncle and mother to track her down as she hasn't been seen in months. Harris had previously had a relationship with the girl (lasting some few days) and is desperate for money so he jumps at the chance. While investigating, he goes deep into Parisian culture during these bright hectic 1929 days (we're approaching the stock market crash in hindsight) and uncovers a bloody trail.
As is often the case when I read historical fiction incorporating real-life personages, seeing how the author chose to render them was a pleasure. Though most only merit brief mentions like Hemingway, I got a thrill every time I recognized a name and enjoyed looking up the others on wikipedia (I had never heard of Man Ray for example; how is "Man" a first name? Isn't it merely a noun?) Another part I liked was the references to the Great War, which hang over all of our characters. Though peace has been in place for eleven years, many are still haunted by those dark days. A third element I liked was the depiction of Paris itself. Yes, there is glitter but there is also the fact that the city is built on bones and women are sadly a dime a dozen for a potential serial killer.
Meanwhile when I consider the mystery itself, I am shocked at how quickly it became so complicated while at other times, it seemed to be almost forgotten when Harris unexpectedly reunites with an old love. This enthralling woman and her possible connection to the case were interesting enough but I didn't care for them as much as Harris did. Other character relationships were not well-developed though I sensed there was potential between Harris and Bennett, a relationship that probably would have been much richer if I had read the first book.
Overall: I loved the atmosphere of Paris and how the darker underbelly was exposed but found the character relationships too muddy as well as the tone's darkness conflicting with my penchant for a light comedy. I'd wait for the next Mary Russell installment.