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The Bones of Paris, by Laurie R. King.

March 9, 2015
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The Bones of Paris, by Laurie R. King.  New York : Bantam Books, 2013.

 3 stars

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.


3 Comments leave one →
  1. March 9, 2015 4:55 pm

    I read very little in the way of crime novels, but I remember reading something of King’s once, and quite enjoying it. I think it’s having a good setting that overcomes my sense of boredom about crime fiction, Donna Leon achieves it too with her Venice novels. So I might look out for this one in the library – Paris, 1920, what’s not to like, eh?

  2. Christine Choo permalink
    March 11, 2015 2:10 am

    I enjoy Laurie King’s writing very much – through her Mary Russell series she introduced me to the genre of mystery / crime fiction. It was a treat to read the Bones of Paris not long after I visited Paris for the fist time, though I am yet to read Touchstone which is on the top of my pile of books waiting to be read.

  3. March 11, 2015 11:38 am

    I am the same way, but there are a few that I really enjoy–such as Laurie King. Hers are somewhat uneven, and I didn’t think this one was among her best. Too many literal bones and name-dropping for me to enjoy even Paris in the 1920s.
    She has written a variety of mystery and suspense novels and is best known for her series about Mary Russell, a bright, young Oxford scholar and Sherlock Holmes. Totally improbable, but it works. The first novel establishes their link and the others cover the globe. I just read and reviewed her latest which I really enjoyed.
    I don’t know Donna Leon, but will look for her. Thanks for the suggestion.

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