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The Bookseller by Mark Pryor (2012)



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I liked it, but it's nothing special. The formula of the book is as old as it can get: Main protagonist has a friend in the CIA to make research easy, he meets a 'girl' that also has connections, and of course it clicked instantly btw them. At least there is no ticking clock to the investigation or I could swear I was reading a Dan Brown novel.

The hero of the book is likable, if unbelievable in his role. For a head of security for an embassy that once worked for the FBI, he sure seem to know nothing about security protocols and interrogations. You'll also probably guess the plot resolution before the end of the book.

But at least the story is interesting. A summer book, not much more. ( )
  kinwolf | Jul 6, 2015 |
I enjoyed The Bookseller for its window into Parisian life and for the background it provided of the bookstall owners. I've seen so many photographs of the bouquinistes, yet this is the first time I've read anything of their history. It was fascinating.

Unfortunately, the rest of the book wasn't on par with its insights into Paris and one of its institutions. Having deduced what was happening to the booksellers and why very early on, I wondered how long it would take Hugo Marston to put the pieces together. Too long, as it happens. Moreover, Marston himself never really clicked as a main character for me, and neither did his friend Tom Green. Both have promise, but both lacked that indefinable spark that would bring them to life.

Now that I've said all that, I will say that this is a promising debut mystery, and I am more than willing to give the next book in the series a try. ( )
  cathyskye | Sep 12, 2014 |
This was a good one -- satisfying in that the sleuth and his colleagues are likable and the mystery gets resolved and the bad guys dealt with. The descriptions of Paris are nicely done, evocative but not intrusive. The story involves a former FBI guy who works security for the U.S. embassy in Paris. He collects books on a small scale and has befriended one of the many street booksellers who have shops along the Seine. His friend is kidnapped before his eyes, and in trying to rescue him, he uncovers many secrets and ultimately helps the Paris police solve a big case with many tentacles. His journalist girlfriend and his alcoholic buddy from FBI days are both well drawn. This was Pryor's first mystery in a series, and I hope to see these characters again. ( )
  Hanneri | May 18, 2014 |

Who is killing the celebrated bouquinistes of Paris?

Max-an elderly Paris bookstall owner-is abducted at gunpoint. His friend, Hugo Marston, head of security at the US embassy, looks on helplessly, powerless to do anything to stop the kidnapper.
Marston launches a search, enlisting the help of semiretired CIA agent Tom Green. Their investigation reveals that Max was a Holocaust survivor and later became a Nazi hunter. Is his disappearance somehow tied to his grim history, or even to the mysterious old books he sold?

On the streets of Paris, tensions are rising as rival drug gangs engage in violent turf wars. Before long, other booksellers start to disappear, their bodies found floating in the Seine. Though the police are not interested in his opinion, Marston is convinced the hostilities have something to do with the murders of these bouquinistes. Then he himself becomes a target of the unknown assassins. With Tom by his side, Marston finally puts the pieces of the puzzle together, connecting the past with the present and leading the two men, quite literally, to the enemy's lair.
Just as the killer intended.
My take.......

Another new author, another interesting mystery this time set in present-day Paris.

We have a main character; Hugo Marston. Marston is getting over the failure of his second marriage. He’s decent, conscientious and is portrayed in a sympathetic light. He looks out for his friends and is loyal as well as capable. Our tale begins with Marston buying a couple of collectible books from a bookseller along the banks of the Seine. Max, the seller and Hugo have become friends after numerous sales, chats and drinks during the period Hugo has been stationed in Paris. Shortly afterwards, Max is taken from under Hugo’s nose and disappears. When the police appear lack lustre in pursuing the disappearance and subsequent booksellers also disappear, Marston gets involved to try and get to the bottom of things.

Several other characters are introduced to us along the way; Claudia – a journalist with contacts inside the Gendarmerie; Tom – ex-CIA and a friend of Hugo’s; Gravois – head of the bouquinistes, Gerard de Roussillon – old French moneyed, book collector plus a few other minor players.

As Hugo’s inquiries gather pace, hindered in part because of the difficulties in a US attaché actively pursuing an investigation in Paris; several possible rationales for the crimes arise.........drugs, the bouquinistes’ future or Nazi collaboration during the war.

Overall the characters were fairly interesting. The plot was plausible, though there were a few minor gripes that I would have a little bit of a problem swallowing en masse. There was enough smoke and mirrors exhibited by the author to ensure my interest sustained itself until the end. We had some decent banter and inter-play between the main characters; especially Tom and Hugo. There was a bit of love action between a couple of players and well-written scenes involving derring-do and action and a there was a decent sense of place. The scenes along the banks of the Seine were particularly evocative.

I’m kind of oscillating between a 3 and a 4 for this one. Did I want to stop reading at any point.....no. Did I care about the outcome....yes. Would I want read more from the author....yes. Would I recommend it to others....yes, on the proviso that it isn’t the perfect book, but overall an entertaining and satisfying read.

Okay it’s a 4 from 5.

Thanks to Meghan at Seventh Street books for my copy of this one.

Pryor has written two subsequent Marston books. The second – The Crypt Thief – came out earlier this year and the third entitled The BloodPromise, which is due out January, 2014. I will get to them both soon.

As a last note, the author did raise an inadvertent chuckle. Pryor is a former UK journalist, now residing in Austin, Texas hometown of Lance Armstrong. Marston exhibits great pride when the Hotel Crillon flies the Texan flag in celebration of Armstrong’s 7th victory in the Tour de France.
( )
  col2910 | Apr 17, 2014 |
Fine read. Hugo Marston is an ex FBI agent, now living in Paris as chief of security for the U.S. Embassy. Recently divorced from his second wife (his first wife was killed in a car crash) he shared a love of rare books with her and had developed a friendship with Max, owner of one of the bouquiniste, along the Seine.

He returns one afternoon after having bought a couple of first editions and witnesses Max being forced, at the point of a gun, on the a boat. When interviewed by the police, some of the bystanders insist that Max had gone willingly. The next day Max's stall has been taken over by someone who claims not to know Max. Hugo, having a couple weeks off, and an ex-cop, decides to check things out. He is soon joined by his old friend, Tom, a semi-retired CIA operative.

What makes this book special is less the mystery, although that's good, too, but rather the surroundings, the flavor of Paris and the little historical bits that some readers objected to, those who must have at least twelve gunshots on each page. I love informative paragraphs like

The term bouquinistes came from the Dutch word boeckin, meaning “small book.” Made sense. The first sellers, he read, used wheelbarrows to transport and sell their goods, and fastened trays to the parapets of the bridges with thin leather straps. After the French Revolution, business boomed when entire libraries were “liberated” from nobles and wound up for sale cheap on the banks of the Seine. In 1891, bouquinistes received permission to permanently attach their boxes to the quaysides. Hugo was struck by the line: “Today, the waiting list to become one of Paris's 250 bouquinistes is eight years.”
But what are we to make of Claudia and her gay father, a rich count, who, when he learns Hugo and Claudia are seeing each other tries to set him up with one of his attractive American employees? And what was his relationship to Gervais the chief of the bouquiniste union, the SBP? In the end, the book is a nice melange of spies, WW II collaborators, drug smugglers, murder, bad cops, microdots, a Holmesian suicide, and a shoot-out.

I downgraded it a bit because Gervois just didn’t seem that believable to me. ( )
  ecw0647 | Jan 5, 2014 |
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When his bookseller friend, a former Holocaust survivor and Nazi hunter, is kidnapped and other booksellers are murdered, Hugo Marston, head of security for the U.S. embassy in Paris, discovers a shocking conspiracy.

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