The Bones of Paris, by Laurie R. King.
The Bones of Paris, by Laurie R. King. New York : Bantam Books, 2013.
Another intriguing mystery set in Paris by a popular and prolific American woman.
Laurie King is best known for her series of mysteries featuring Sherlock Holmes and Mary Russell, the bright young woman he marries. She had also written other mysteries and darker novels about people facing terror and suspense. The Bones of Paris is one of these.
Harris Stuyvesant is a brawny American detective whom King wrote about in Touchstone, a novel set in post-World-War-I Britain. This time he is in Paris in the 1920s, hired to find out what happened to a young American woman who has disappeared. As he looks for her, he is drawn into a web of violence linked strangely to the art world where artists deliberately use their talents to produce terror in their audiences. Other characters from Touchstone reappear; Bennett Grey, whose wartime experiences left him excruciating sensitive, and his sister, Sarah, whom Stuyvesant had loved and lost. Tension builds as the search for the missing victims enters the Paris catacombs and the bones of the dead appear in works of art.
King is a master of depicting the time and place of her plots. This time the action is set in 1920s Paris. Famous individuals move in and out of the narrative as King reproduces the mood of recklessness and experimentation that flowed through the city as artists sought to express a new aesthetic that played with terror and death. Some defended their approach as a means of helping audiences move beyond their painful wartime experiences. I just wish I had had a better mental map of Paris as characters roamed the city—or any map at all.
This is a sequel to Touchstone, and to have read it first might make this novel more meaningful. I had read, but too long ago to matter, and it wasn’t a major problem.
The Bones of Paris is another fine example of mystery books that push the mystery genre beyond its usual boundaries. I recommend it to those who enjoy such books. But I found this one too grim for my tastes. My favorite of King’s novel remains Folly, the story of a woman recovering from trauma by building her own house.