Review: Dreaming Spies by Laurie R. King

dreaming spies by laurie r kingFormat read: ebook provided by the publisher via Edelweiss
Formats available: hardcover, ebook, audiobook
Genre: mystery
Series: Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes #13
Length: 352 pages
Publisher: Bantam
Date Released: February 17, 2015
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Book Depository

After a lengthy case that had the couple traipsing all over India, Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes are on their way to California to deal with some family business that Russell has been neglecting for far too long. Along the way, they plan to break up the long voyage with a sojourn in southern Japan. The cruising steamer Thomas Carlyle is leaving Bombay, bound for Kobe. Though they’re not the vacationing types, Russell is looking forward to a change of focus—not to mention a chance to travel to a location Holmes has not visited before. The idea of the pair being on equal footing is enticing to a woman who often must race to catch up with her older, highly skilled husband.

Aboard the ship, intrigue stirs almost immediately. Holmes recognizes the famous clubman the Earl of Darley, whom he suspects of being an occasional blackmailer: not an unlikely career choice for a man richer in social connections than in pounds sterling. And then there’s the lithe, surprisingly fluent young Japanese woman who befriends Russell and quotes haiku. She agrees to tutor the couple in Japanese language and customs, but Russell can’t shake the feeling that Haruki Sato is not who she claims to be.

Once in Japan, Russell’s suspicions are confirmed in a most surprising way. From the glorious city of Tokyo to the cavernous library at Oxford, Russell and Holmes race to solve a mystery involving international extortion, espionage, and the shocking secrets that, if revealed, could spark revolution—and topple an empire.

My Review:

The title of this book is a pun, based on poet Matthew Arnold’s description of Oxford as the “city of dreaming spires”. It is fitting that this title derive from poetry, as many of the chapter headings are snippets of haiku, and the repeated theft of a book by Matsuo Bashō, one of the early masters of the haiku form of poetry.

There are also plenty of points in the story where it seems that some, or all, of the spies are, in fact dreaming. Or at least daydreaming. One of the unusual aspects of this case is that Russell and Holmes do not seem to be the prime movers of events. They are acted upon more often than they are acting. They believe (perhaps dream) that they are the “Plan A” of much of the mystery that is solved. But at the end, they discover that they have always been “Plan B” or sometimes even “Plan C” for the person who has been in control all along.

game by laurie r king Although this story takes place upon their return from California and the events in Locked Rooms, the actions in the “present day” mostly serve as a frame to a story that happened earlier in their journey. Dreaming Spies tells of the events in Japan that have been hinted at in previous books, and most of the action takes place between The Game and Locked Rooms. Also between The Game and the Holmes insert into The Art of Detection, which seemed to occur simultaneously with Locked Rooms.

As much as I love this series, I will confess that the time-line is getting very confusing. The series is on book 13, but it takes place between books 7 and 8.

This mystery begins with the arrival of a large rock as well as the gentlemen to place it properly in Holmes’ garden in Sussex. While Holmes and Russell have not yet returned when the rock is, let’s say installed, the report from Mrs. Hudson is enough to connect the new addition to events they participated in while on their way to and in Japan.

They began by being bored. Well, at least Holmes was bored. It was a long cruise from India to Japan, and while Russell was quite content to read her books, Holmes, as usual, was not.

To keep Holmes from jumping overboard (not quite but almost) he began a private investigation into some strange occurrences on the ship. His inveterate curiosity was aroused by the presence of an old foe – a blackmailer who he put out of business, but was unable to put away. Holmes has never believed that the man was not fully complicit in the old scheme, but Russell finds him not quite bright enough to has masterminded anything. So the question regards what he might be up to now, and who is the brains of whatever it is.

Someone is working with Lord Darley, and one woman has already left the ship in mysterious circumstances in order to get away from him. Another woman has boarded the ship in equally mysterious circumstances, but her purpose involves Holmes and Russell much more than Darley.

More than they ever figure out, until the very end of the caper. Holmes starts by chasing an old enemy, and ends by discovering that he and Russell have been used by the Crown Prince of Japan.

That they would have helped anyway is never a question. That someone was able to keep them in the dark and still get their help makes her a much better spy than even one of Mycroft’s operatives.

That nothing is as it seems, and that our heroes do not even have a glimpse of how they have been tricked (all in a good cause) makes Dreaming Spies an extremely interesting case. The game is indeed afoot, but for once, it is not Holmes” or even Russell’s, game.

beekeeper's apprentice new mediumEscape Rating B+: I love this series, and have ever since The Beekeeper’s Apprentice more than ten years ago. However, the timeline is getting extremely confusing. This story takes place before Mary’s falling out with Mycroft, which makes her initial suspicion that Haruki Sato is one of his agents somewhat perplexing.

The story of Holmes’ and Russell’s involvement with the blackmailer that turns into a scheme to protect the young Crown Prince of Japan from his own foolishness builds slowly and wraps itself around both the reader and the Holmeses like the folds of a sari, to mix metaphors and Holmes’ adventures.

Holmes and Russell think that they are helping an agent of the Japanese crown to recover some stolen property. It wasn’t stolen from him, he gave it away first. Holmes wants to finally see one of his old enemies get his just deserts, and Haruki Sato wants to get the stolen secret document back for her Emperor.

Haruki is an absolutely fascinating character. She is nothing like she appears to be, and Holmes never penetrate all her layers of deception. She manages to use him, and that is a rare feat.

Through Haruki and the tasks she sets for Holmes and Russell, we get both an introduction to Japan and its culture in the years between the wars, and a less sensational but more realistic description of what it meant to be a ninja in service to the Crown. Along with a heart-breaking view of what that service may cost.

Haruki’s mission is to save face for the Crown Prince, no matter what she has to do or suffer along the way. We understand at the end that Holmes and Russell would have gladly helped her without her deception, but that she couldn’t count on that. We know they would not have said “no”, but she can’t be 100% certain, so she brings them into her plans unwittingly.

Something that always gets my attention is the reminder of how close the author has brought Sherlock Holmes to our own time. We think of Holmes as a creature of the Victorian Age, but he is alive and active in the 1920s at this point in the story. The Crown Prince of Japan, who later becomes Emperor, is Hirohito, who was the Japanese Emperor during World War II. We see him here as a young man, just learning the intricacies of his future role. But Hirohito died in 1989, a period very much within living memory.

The story in Dreaming Spies is a slow-building one. We start with a cruise that should be a time of relaxation, and end at a breakneck pace as Haruki finally finds the item she has been searching for all along, and Holmes finally uncovers the man behind the old blackmailer. It is seldom that Holmes is in a case where he is outplayed, so watching him both lose and win at the same time was a treat.

***FTC Disclaimer: Most books reviewed on this site have been provided free of charge by the publisher, author or publicist. Some books we have purchased with our own money or borrowed from a public library and will be noted as such. Any links to places to purchase books are provided as a convenience, and do not serve as an endorsement by this blog. All reviews are the true and honest opinion of the blogger reviewing the book. The method of acquiring the book does not have a bearing on the content of the review.

Review: Harder by Robin York

harder by robin yorkFormat read: ebook provided by NetGalley
Formats available: ebook, paperback, audiobook
Genre: new adult romance
Series: Caroline & West, #2
Length: 353 pages
Publisher: Bantam
Date Released: July 1, 2014
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Book Depository

Caroline still dreams about West. His warm skin, his taut muscles, his hand sliding down her stomach. Then she wakes up and she’s back to reality: West is gone. And before he left, he broke her heart.

Then, out of the blue, West calls in crisis. A tragedy has hit his family—a family that’s already a fractured mess. Caroline knows what she has to do. Without discussion, without stopping to think, she’s on a plane, flying to his side to support him in any way he needs.

They’re together again, but things are totally different. West looks edgy, angry at the world. Caroline doesn’t fit in. She should be back in Iowa, finalizing her civil suit against the ex-boyfriend who posted their explicit pictures on a revenge porn website. But here she is. Deeply into West, wrapped up in him, in love with him. Still.

They fought the odds once. Losing each other was hard. But finding their way back to each other couldn’t be harder.

My Review:

deeper by robin yorkIf you have not read the first part of Caroline and West’s story, go back and pick up the monumentally awesome Deeper (reviewed here). The story in Harder is so much deeper if you read where they are coming from.

This pair of stories is exactly what “new adult romance” is supposed to be about: people in that first stage of adulthood who are making decisions that will echo through the rest of their lives, no matter what happens.

In the case of Harder, the story is about whether these two college students will not just face their very adult problems, but also find a way to go beyond survival into thriving in the future.

This story is “harder” because it is both more difficult for Caroline and West to find a way back to each other, and because the theme goes to the question of the ways in which we make our lives harder for ourselves, by closing off options that we think might be hard, instead of striving and finding out.

At the end of Deeper, West leaves both Caroline and college in order to go back to his depressing and depressed home town of Silt, Oregon. It’s not just that his sister needs him, but that West has never believed that he was entitled to a life and happiness of his own. He expected to have to go back, and when it happens, he’s resigned rather than surprised.

He’s always been sure that Caroline deserved better than him, never acknowledging that what Caroline did or did not deserve was not a decision that was his to make.

West tries to push her away, but she’s the only light in his darkness. That he’s made his world darker than it needs to be, all on his own, is not something that he ever considers. But in the middle of too many nights, he calls her just to hear her voice.

And when his mother’s ex-boyfriend shoots his deadbeat father, West calls Caroline. He doesn’t ask for her help, but she gets on the first plane to Oregon. She wants to help. He wants someone to take care of his kid sister Frankie. Caroline wants West back.

West does his worst to make sure she leaves him. And she does, but not before making him think about what he’s doing; to her, to himself, and to his sister.

It’s the hardest thing in his life to realize that every single thing Caroline told him was right. It’s the second hardest to take his sister and his screwed up self back to college. It’s the third hardest to let Caroline all the way back into his life.

It takes him forever to figure out that the best way he can give his sister the good life that he wants for her is to live it with her, with Caroline. Frankie can only learn how to be her authentic self if West can learn it first.

Escape Rating A+: The first half of this story is a hard read. Absolutely excellent, but painfully hard. Deeper ended at the point where Caroline and West separate. It was the right ending for the story, but devastating to read.

Harder picks up where Deeper emotionally left off. Caroline and West are hundreds of miles apart and they have no future together. And neither of them can get over that fact, or move past each other to build a new life.

Of course, West feels that he doesn’t have a life, and isn’t entitled to one. As far as he’s concerned, his only purpose in this world is to protect his sister Frankie. He’s willing to sacrifice himself and everything he might ever be just to keep Frankie safe.

Then the situation hits rock bottom, and the best way for West to keep Frankie safe is to get her out of Silt and away from their neglectful mother. And West only has one place to go; back to Iowa and college. Back to Caroline. Except not.

Deeper was Caroline’s story. West made her see that she was something beyond the terrible pictures, and that if she wasn’t “fine” there was a way to get better.

Harder is West’s story. Caroline refuses to take “fine” for an answer, and refuses to stay out of his and Frankie’s life. Just as he made her think, helped her to get stronger, in Deeper, she does the same thing for him in Harder. But the journey is harder, because they both know what they’ve lost, and because West has so little faith in himself.

If you like contemporary romances featuring real, believable characters facing real problems and coming out strong and together, you’ll love Harder, very, very hard indeed.

***FTC Disclaimer: Most books reviewed on this site have been provided free of charge by the publisher, author or publicist. Some books we have purchased with our own money or borrowed from a public library and will be noted as such. Any links to places to purchase books are provided as a convenience, and do not serve as an endorsement by this blog. All reviews are the true and honest opinion of the blogger reviewing the book. The method of acquiring the book does not have a bearing on the content of the review.

Review: Turned by Virna DePaul

turned by virna depaulFormat read: ebook provided by NetGalley
Formats available: paperback, ebook, audiobook
Genre: paranormal romance
Series: Belladonna Agency #1
Length: 384 pages
Publisher: Bantam
Date Released: April 1, 2014
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Book Depository

Welcome to a mesmerizing world where vampires hide among humans. This centuries-old species has its own rules, code of conduct, and taboos. Only the FBI knows that vampires exist—and although the Bureau agrees to keep their secret, it also plots to give humans the upper hand.

Turning mortals into vampires is forbidden.

But there are creatures who refuse to play by the rules.

Ever since he was turned, FBI special agent Ty Duncan has had one mission: bring rogue vampires to justice. As a recruiter for Belladonna, a shadow agency formed to keep vampires in check, Ty must tap Ana Martin, a troubled ex–gang member and one of the few mortals who can infiltrate places that his kind and the law cannot. From their first encounter, Ty fights a hunger to make Ana his own.

When Ty claims to have information about Ana’s missing sister, Ana has no choice but to trust this captivating stranger who awakens her deepest desires. But as she and Ty climb the heights of pleasure and passion, an enemy is conspiring to destroy them both.

Can Ana help Ty find his humanity in a love that could heal them both, or will their passion lead them into a darkness impossible to escape?

My Review:

DEPAUL_Turned_BlogHop_21I picked this book up from NetGalley because I signed up for the Turned Blog Hop from Romance at Random last week. (The hop is still going on, so enter here!)

Turned introduces us to a slightly different version of the fanged ones. In this world, some vamps are born, and others are made, in other words, turned from human to vampire. There are lots of politics involved, because, well, immortal vampires make for convoluted politics. But in this case not all of the political complications are on the vampire side.

Ty Duncan is an FBI who was turned against his will by a bunch of rogue vampires. The rogues are rogues from their own laws, because in this world, the vampires don’t want to increase their population by turning humans. They just want to stay under the radar and not come out of the coffin.

The FBI not only knows that vampires exist, but they have been recruiting rogues to turn people for them. Some senior FBI officials see vampires as faster, stronger, better agents, and don’t even think that anyone who is a rogue is probably a rogue through and through.

So the FBI loses control of its vampire-makers, after the rogues turn two FBI agents, Ty and Peter, very much against their will (and with extra added torture and other collateral damage).

Now the FBI needs to track down the rogues and cover its ass with the Vampire Queen, who specifically told them not to turn anyone. In other words, the FBI has a good old-fashioned clusterfuck on its hands.

Especially when they find out that their former rogues are running a human blood slavery operation on the side. Just when they thought it couldn’t get much worse, it does.

So of course they create an even shadowier arm of the agency to track down the rogues and put a stop to the blood slavery. Let’s call this the creation of plausible deniability, although there is also a certain amount of “locking the barn door after the horse it out”.

That shadow-arm of the agency is called Belladonna, and the name is intended to mean both “beautiful woman” and “deadly nightshade”. Their intent is to recruit deadly women who can become agents and spies, whether they ever become vampires themselves or not.

Ty is instructed to recruit Ana Martin, for two reasons; she has already proven that she can be deadly when the situation demands it, and because the suspected leader of the blood slavery ring is a man who has been obsessed with Ana since he jumped her into a gang when they were teens.

Ana lets herself be recruited because the Belladonna Agency has promised her the one thing that she has been searching years for; contact with her long-lost sister. Both Ana and Ty try to hide their mutual ulterior motive, that they are attracted to each other with a need that neither of them can fight, no matter how much they both believe that they are not worthy of the other, and that any possible relationship is doomed from the start.

But nothing that Ana has believed all her life turns out to be true. Everyone betrays her, or has betrayed her, and more than once. Except Ty. No matter what happens, he tells her nothing but the truth, and not just because vampires are unable to lie.

Ana just has to learn to trust her feelings, and herself, before it’s too late.

Escape Rating C+: Because this is the first book in a series, there is a lot of setup and there are still some things that are unexplained. Vampire society looks complex (it generally is) but we don’t learn how things got this way or what the vampires are really up to.

We view what it is like to be a vampire from Ty’s perspective, and he’s both untrained and miserable about his turning. He hates himself and his life. He keeps trying to protect Ana from the monster that he feels he is, instead of letting her decide for herself. Too often, his way of protecting her is to push her away rather harshly, and she naturally reacts by pushing back, equally harshly.

Also, although this is a love story, it uses the insta-love trope. One gets the sense that Ty and Ana are fated mates, although that’s never explicitly said. But they have a stronger instant chemical reaction to each other that is more than just insta-lust. (And Peter has the same reactions to the Vampire Queen when he meets her).

If there is a fated-mate component, it would be better to know that, rather than have the story lead down that road and then NOT explain.

Ana is a very strong heroine. She’s made a good life for herself in spite of an extremely rough start, and she takes a beating, whether physical or emotional, and keeps moving forward. The other women introduced in the story as the rest of the team are definitely promising potential heroines as well. The prospect of reading their stories is one I’m looking forward to.

***FTC Disclaimer: Most books reviewed on this site have been provided free of charge by the publisher, author or publicist. Some books we have purchased with our own money or borrowed from a public library and will be noted as such. Any links to places to purchase books are provided as a convenience, and do not serve as an endorsement by this blog. All reviews are the true and honest opinion of the blogger reviewing the book. The method of acquiring the book does not have a bearing on the content of the review.

Review: Deeper by Robin York

deeper by robin yorkFormat read: ebook provided by NetGalley
Formats available: paperback, ebook
Genre: New Adult romance, Contemporary romance
Series: Caroline and West #1
Length: 400 pages
Publisher: Bantam
Date Released: January 28, 2014
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Book Depository

When Caroline Piasecki’s ex-boyfriend posts their sex pictures on the Internet, it destroys her reputation as a nice college girl. Suddenly her once-promising future doesn’t look so bright. Caroline tries to make the pictures disappear, hoping time will bury her shame. Then a guy she barely knows rises to her defense and punches her ex to the ground.

West Leavitt is the last person Caroline needs in her life. Everyone knows he’s shady. Still, Caroline is drawn to his confidence and swagger—even after promising her dad she’ll keep her distance. On late, sleepless nights, Caroline starts wandering into the bakery where West works.

They hang out, they talk, they listen. Though Caroline and West tell each other they’re “just friends,” their feelings intensify until it becomes impossible to pretend. The more complicated her relationship with West gets, the harder Caroline has to struggle to discover what she wants for herself—and the easier it becomes to find the courage she needs to fight back against the people who would judge her.

When all seems lost, sometimes the only place to go is deeper.

My Review:

Deeper wraps a heart stoppingly beautiful love story around a life-shattering problem, and shows the strength of spirit of a young woman who grows up stronger for her broken places.

But the problem that begins the story nearly breaks Caroline’s soul and spirit, and is unfortunately all too real in the 21st century combination of constant connectivity, cyberbullying and sexting, mixed with the age-old issues of sexual harrassment and sexual abuse, usually by males over females.

The resultant nasty cocktail is revenge porn, where someone takes what society considers “dirty” pictures of a young woman and bombs them all over the internet without her consent. Because the woman is a legal adult, even though she is photographed without her consent, posting the pictures online is legal. Anything that happens to her afterwards is considered her problem.

And that’s what happens to Caroline Piasecki. Her ex-boyfriend snapped a picture of her giving him a blowjob with his cellphone. When they broke up, he posted the picture everywhere he could think of. Then, of course, he denied having posted it. As if it could have been anyone else.

The damage was done. The scumbag didn’t just post the picture, he posted her name and the name of the college they attended. He wanted to make sure that he trashed her reputation. That everyone who saw her on campus, that anyone who ever Googled her name, saw that picture first.

It was one hell of a spiteful revenge for breaking up with him. Especially since Caroline was planning to go to law school, and that picture is not going to make getting recommendations for internships at law firms any easier.

Caroline is someone who has always had a perfectly orderly life, and now everything is completely out of order. Her plans are ruined. She has tried so very hard to be good. To be careful.

Her universe is shattered. The whispers follow her everywhere. And she can’t help but start to feel them reach inside of her.

It takes Caroline a long time, and a lot of help from her friends, to start to live her life again. A life that is not defined by the whispers and lies.

There is one hell of a lot of strength involved on her part. Also pretty much of a “two-steps forward-one step back” approach to dealing with moving on from the very huge problem.

But the biggest assist she gets is from West Leavitt. He represents a different choice in life. Lots of different choices. West is a young man who seems to be living in the moment, but actually isn’t. Where Caroline plans everything, West looks spontaneous.

But he’s not. What he is, is someone from an entirely different life who has grabbed this brief moment of time for himself, because he’s sure it will be taken away any second. What he doesn’t reveal is much about himself.

At first, West gives Caroline something that no one else does; a space with no BS. He may not disclose much, but he also doesn’t expect her to filter what she’s feeling. She doesn’t have to pretend to be okay.

And out of that lack of pretense, comes everything.

Escape Rating A+: Deeper is a story that will haunt you long after you turn the final page. This is a book that lives up to the promise of the genre tag New Adult; it delivers a deeper, richer story than a young adult novel. In New Adult the protagonist is supposed to have a problem to solve that will have an impact on their adult life. There are no easy answers in this book, only hard questions and tough solutions.

Deeper is Caroline’s journey. She starts the story in the midst of a meltdown of epic proportions, and she’s melting down for reasons that are big and real. She treats the “porn attack” as a problem to be solved, or hidden from, and can’t face people’s scorn. So she hides. She feels as dirty as if she deserved the comments people, mostly men, fling at her everywhere.

The story is her transformation from the young woman who is victimized to the one who stands up for herself. In the beginning, she feels like she IS the pictures. She feels abused. In the end, the pictures are the pictures, but they are not herself. This does not mean she is not being attacked, because she still is, but she is owning her defense.

West’s story is told in counterpoint to Caroline’s. He comes from such a different place than she does, and he conceals everything about who he really is until nearly the end of their relationship. Their love story is very slow building, and that’s a terrific thing. Caroline isn’t ready to love someone until she stops being a victim and starts taking control of her life. And part of that control is telling West that they can’t have a real relationship until he is willing to admit that what they have is actually a relationship.

He wants to protect her, but part of the point of the story is that Caroline has gotten strong enough that she doesn’t need his protection any more. She needs to make her own decisions, and for that to work, she needs his trust, and his truth.

The ending of Deeper will make you reach for the kleenex, because it concludes, exactly where it should, but not where you want it to.

***FTC Disclaimer: Most books reviewed on this site have been provided free of charge by the publisher, author or publicist. Some books we have purchased with our own money or borrowed from a public library and will be noted as such. Any links to places to purchase books are provided as a convenience, and do not serve as an endorsement by this blog. All reviews are the true and honest opinion of the blogger reviewing the book. The method of acquiring the book does not have a bearing on the content of the review.

Review: The Bones of Paris by Laurie R. King

The Bones of Paris by Laurie R. KingFormat read: ebook provided by NetGalley
Formats available: ebook, hardcover
Genre: Historical mystery
Series: Harris Stuyvesant, #2
Length: 432 pages
Publisher: Bantam
Date Released: September 10, 2013
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Book Depository

Paris, France: September 1929. For Harris Stuyvesant, the assignment is a private investigator’s dream—he’s getting paid to troll the cafés and bars of Montparnasse, looking for a pretty young woman. The American agent has a healthy appreciation for la vie de bohème, despite having worked for years at the U.S. Bureau of Investigation. The missing person in question is Philippa Crosby, a twenty-two year old from Boston who has been living in Paris, modeling and acting. Her family became alarmed when she stopped all communications, and Stuyvesant agreed to track her down. He wholly expects to find her in the arms of some up-and-coming artist, perhaps experimenting with the decadent lifestyle that is suddenly available on every rue and boulevard.

As Stuyvesant follows Philippa’s trail through the expatriate community of artists and writers, he finds that she is known to many of its famous—and infamous—inhabitants, from Shakespeare and Company’s Sylvia Beach to Ernest Hemingway to the Surrealist photographer Man Ray. But when the evidence leads Stuyvesant to the Théâtre du Grand-Guignol in Montmartre, his investigation takes a sharp, disturbing turn. At the Grand-Guignol, murder, insanity, and sexual perversion are all staged to shocking, brutal effect: depravity as art, savage human nature on stage.

Soon it becomes clear that one missing girl is a drop in the bucket. Here, amid the glittering lights of the cabarets, hides a monster whose artistic coup de grâce is to be rendered in blood. And Stuyvesant will have to descend into the darkest depths of perversion to find a killer . . . sifting through The Bones of Paris.

My Review:

The dance of death capers to a lively jazz tune beneath the city of lights. You can almost hear the beat take on a frenetic turn as some people realize that the good times can’t possibly last.

It is September, 1929. Jazz Age Paris, and the booming U.S. stock market has made it possible for the thriving artistic expatriate community that became the hallmark of the era to exist, is about to go smash.

In The Bones of Paris, it feels as if Harris Stuyvesant’s hunt for the young American woman, Pip Crosby, brings the crash. There’s a sense of impending doom from the very first page.

It could be because we see the date, and we know.

Touchstone by Laurie R KingHarris Stuyvesant is a private investigator, formerly a member of the American Bureau of Investigation. And yes, that would be the precursor to the FBI. In a previous case (the book Touchstone) Harris breaks with his former employers but stays in Europe as a private operator. Pip’s case brings him back to Paris.

This is the Paris of Hemingway’s Lost Generation. Indeed, Harris not only knows Hemingway, but is careful to lose whenever Hemingway picks a boxing match with him, because Hemingway is a nasty loser but an expansive winner. Ezra Pound, James Joyce and Gertrude Stein appear as background characters.

But it is the artists with whom the story is most caught up. Pip Crosby was an artist’s model. So Harris spends a lot of time investigating the artists’ community in Paris. Particularly Man Ray, Didi Moreau, and the Grand Guignol theatre of naturalistic horror and its proprietor, Le Comte.

Of course, in the Paris of the 1920s, everyone in the artistic community knew everyone. Harris’ investigation feels like stepping back into time, and drinking the night away with the Queen of Montparnasse while listening to Josephine Baker at Bricktop’s.

Harris has a missing American girl to find. He checks in with the police, only to discover that Pip Crosby is not the only missing girl, or the only missing person. Inspector Doucet has begun to fear a pattern, a serial killer, who has gone undetected for at least 18 months.

The argument between them is that the evidence that Harris turns up is generally not obtained by legal means, and the suspects that he fears may be guilty are not people that the Inspector, however dutiful, is predisposed to consider.

Then there is the biggest problem between these two men; Doucet is engaged to marry the woman that Harris once loved. A woman who may be the next target of the killer.

Escape Rating B+: The evocation of the time and place is marvelous. There are a few of the people involved in this story that I’m still trying to determine whether they were real figures or were made up. Didi Moreau is the one I think is fictional, but could have been real.

But for the purposes of the mystery, there were three suspects. One could not possibly have been the murderer because he was a real person and this event simply didn’t happen in his life. Part of the mystery was that it simply took a long time to narrow down that Pip was dead, or admit Pip was dead, and to figure out that they were dealing with a serial killer and who the possibilities might be.

Grand_Guignol_posterThe weaving of real elements into the story made things more chilling. Two features of Paris at the time that are integral parts of the story are the Paris Catacombs and their chilling history, which of course still exist, and the Grand Guignol theatre of horror and comedy.

I had not read Touchstone before reading The Bones of Paris. It isn’t necessary to enjoy this book, but now that I know it exists, I want it.

The Bones of Paris is very much a character driven mystery. The character of Harris Stuyvesant, the character of Jazz Age Paris, the character of the murderer, and the characters of the world that is about to change forever.

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