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The Bones of Paris by Laurie R. King

The Bones of Paris

by Laurie R. King

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Little did former FBI agent, now private detective, Harris Stuyvesant know that after spending "bed time" when the 22 year old American heiress Philippa "Pip" Crosby, that he would be hired by her uncle to find what happened to her when she stopped all communications with the family. Harris finds himself in post WWI Paris visiting one night club after another in the Montparnasse area of Paris, home for a number of American expatriates including Hemingway, Man Ray, and Cole Porter. Soon Harris discovers that Pip is one a number recent disappearances in Paris. The author, famous for Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes mysteries, ventures in another historical mystery, which frankly is inferior to some of her other series. However, it was enjoyable reading a novel populated by numerous writers and authors of this period. ( )
  John_Warner | Jan 19, 2016 |
Originally posted at: http://olduvaireads.wordpress.com/2013/09/03/book-tour-and-giveaway-the-bones-of...

“Yes, Parisians had the right idea when it came to summer: get out. Paris obscured by snow or softened by fog, Paris adrift on fallen blossoms or carpeted in autumn leaves, Paris in the rain, at night, the lights streaking on the pavement – yes. But not Paris with a blast furnace overhead, when five minutes after finishing a beer, a man felt thirsty. Days like this, you kept a close eye on stray dogs, expecting one to come at you with foam-slathered jaws. Days like this, you wondered if winter would ever come again. If a snowdrop would ever bloom in the badlands.”

Harris Stuyvesant, former FBI man, now private investigator, is in Paris. It is September 1929 and he has been hired to look for Philippa Crosby otherwise known as Pip or Phil, a 22-year-old American and Paris resident who has been missing since March. He has a personal interest in this case as he had a brief affair with her (“one in a string of mostly blonde, mostly young women who made a man glad to be living in 1920s France”), which complicates things a little. He begins his investigation with her flatmate Nancy Berger, from whom he learns that Pip was working as a model for artists and photographers in Paris.

He starts by checking out the vibrant expat community in Paris – apparently Harris is an acquaintance of some well-known Americans in Paris like Sylvia Beach of Shakespeare and Company (according to Beach, “the only American in Paris who neither writes not paints”) and Ernest Hemingway. But things take a turn for the darker and the more macabre when his search takes him into the company of Surrealists like Man Ray and their “infatuation with intellectual violence”, the naturalistic horror shows of the Théâtre du Grand-Guignol, and the morbid art displays of Didi Moreau.

The suspense deepens when we learn that Harris’ ex-girlfriend Sarah Gray is working in Paris, for Dominic Charmentier, a patron of art, a collector of various things, an “amateur de la morte” (an admirer of death) with an interest in the Grand-Guignol.

Interspersed with Harris’ adventures in Paris are short, deliberately vague chapters. One hints of a “bone artist” working with beetles that clean flesh off bones, “a life’s story, carved in mute calcium”. Another tells of the history behind the dead of Paris, bodies buried on the Rive Droit since Roman times in the Cemetery of the Holy Innocents, a “field of bones and bodies surrounded by the living”. And yet another is a conversation about a danse macabre (dance of death).

The ambiance is wonderful. King brings the 1920s Paris scene to life with its weird and wonderful side characters. Which happens to be rather popular right now isn’t it? Her 1920s Parisian scene is ripe with wildlife nightlife, its literary greats, its delightful Midnight in Paris-isms. King made Paris in the summer just burst with colour and flavour, from the very moment we step foot in it: “The morning exploded.”

She also sent me off to the Internet many times, checking out the various real-life characters she brings in, like Man Ray and Lee Miller, places like the Île de la Cité, and making me want to read Dashiell Hammett’s Red Harvest which although Harris doesn’t read (it is a gift from Sylvia Beach), sounds like a fun hardboiled read. Always a sign of a well-researched, engaging read.

King is a sublime writer with a wonderful ability to immerse the reader in her historical mysteries. She had already won me over with her Sherlock Holmes-ian Mary Russell series (of which I’ve read the first three books) and she does not disappoint in The Bones of Paris.

But it was a little hard for me to fall for the main characters, perhaps because this is the second book in the series. I felt like I was missing a connection, that which the characters of Harris Stuyvesant, Sarah and Bennett Gray have from the first book. Bones of Paris opens with Bennett Gray in Cornwall, receiving an important package from Harris Stuyvesant (and a tiny mention of Sarah), but we don’t hear from Bennett till quite a while later in the book, leaving me constantly wondering what their connection was and why Bennett was the one who opened the book. So part of me wished I had known of their background history before I began this book. Still it did work out in the end as things were explained more and it made me interested in finding out more about Bennett and Sarah and Harris – and I will likely be borrowing Touchstone from the library soon. ( )
  olduvai | Jan 19, 2016 |
Interesting plot that could have been more spellbinding. Disappointing, non-creative ending. ( )
  Mwsberg | Oct 19, 2015 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
It is the late 1920s in Paris - there are Americans everywhere living it up in the vibrant art scene where the macabre is all the rage. Harris is tasked with finding a missing American girl he once met in Nice. Harris is somehow darker, moodier and more violent in this book - a little less likeable than the first book. Bennett Gray plays only a tiny part in this story - truly this is all about Harris fighting his own demons as well as the very real one that he uncovers in his investigation. This is a very dark story, but superbly written and overall well done! ( )
  irishmbo | May 30, 2015 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
I love Laurie R. King's Mary Russell books. A lot. So I was excited to try this book with a new protagonist. Well, -ists, I suppose, though one doesn't really feature much until late in the story. This was an enjoyable read. Enough so that I whipped through it in less than a week (not bad, when my only reading time is a few minutes before falling asleep).

I didn't love the characters as much as I love Russell and Holmes, but they're pretty exceptional, so I guess that makes sense. I did love the setting. King does a great job of describing it just enough. Not going overboard, but still giving you a real feeling for the setting, the mood. And the mood in this one was CREEPY. If reading the macabre gives you nightmares, you might give this one a miss. I was surprised I didn't have any crazy dreams, reading it at bedtime and all.

I never like to give plot summaries for mysteries. That seems to be the whole point of reading the book. I'll just say this one was satisfying all the way through. I'm sure I'll read more of King's books. She tells a good story. ( )
  jennyo | May 7, 2015 |
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For Robert Difley,

a brother in more than law.
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The envelope reached Bennett Grey early Wednesday afternoon.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0345531760, Hardcover)

New York Times bestselling author Laurie R. King, beloved for her acclaimed Mary Russell/Sherlock Holmes series, consistently writes richly detailed and thoroughly suspenseful novels that bring a distant time and place to brilliant life. Now, in this thrilling new book, King leads readers into the vibrant and sensual Paris of the Jazz Age—and reveals the darkest secrets of its denizens.
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.
The award-winning novels of Laurie R. King are . . .
“Delightful and creative.”—The Wall Street Journal
“Intricate clockworks, wheels within wheels.”—Booklist (starred review)
“Audacious.”—Los Angeles Times
“Rousing . . . riveting . . . suspenseful.”—Chicago Sun-Times
“Imaginative and subtle.”—The Seattle Times
“Impossible to put down.”—Romantic Times
“Beguiling . . . tantalizing.”—The Boston Globe

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:06:14 -0400)

Paris, France: September 1929. Private investigator Harris Stuyvesant, on the hunt for a missing twenty-two year old woman from Boston, must descend into the darkest depths of perversion to find a killer hiding in the Theatre du Grand-Guignol in Montmartre.… (more)

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