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The Bones of Paris by Laurie R. King

The Bones of Paris

by Laurie R. King

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Harris Stuyvesant is arrogant. He’s brash, stubborn, and guilty of machismo. All of this should antagonize modern readers. Instead, he embodies the quintessential private detective of 1920s. He has all of the directness of the loosening morals of the Jazz Era with the hardened experience of a war veteran. He is direct. He is intense. He is so very male. He is the perfect hero for The Bones of Paris.

The story is little more than a traditional detective novel. A woman is lost; family members hire a private detective to find her. There is an added sense of debauchery in the popularity of the macabre Modernist movement, to which Harris is firmly introduced. The sense of unease those works by Man Ray and his peers cause within Harris set the tone of the novel. In many aspects, what Harris discovers during his investigation about the 1920s art world not only makes for fascinating reading and great suspense, it also provides a sad but unspoken commentary on the state of Europeans after the first world war and their willingness to accept the dark and disturbed as entertainment.

What makes The Bones of Paris so entertaining are the historical details. There are the close-knit communities of the American expatriates and of artists, with much overlap between the two. There are the scandalized and the scandalous – those pushing the envelope of the excesses of the Jazz Era and those who are fighting those excesses with every breath. There are the war veterans still struggling with processing their battlefield scars, emotional as well as physical. There is a growing socialist movement, which will soon ignite certain parts of Europe. There is the influx of the newly rich, riding the stock market as it climbs to ever higher heights and the sense of infallibility that this is one thing that will never change. There is the night life for which Paris during the Jazz Age is famous, during which drinking, smoking and doing drugs to excess were the norm and worked off during sweaty bouts of dancing to the latest jazz tunes long into the wee hours of the night. The Bones of Paris has it all. More importantly, the story enfolds readers so that one feels very much a part of this vibrant setting.

Jefferson Mays steps into Harris’ macho shoes and provides an excellent narration of this quintessential 1920s male detective novel. He adopts the insouciance of the era with ease. His adaptation for the feminine voice is decent, and his French flows effortlessly. His voice is easy on the ears, and he speaks with the deliberate cadence of that era. His performance wonderfully enhances the overall entertainment quality of the story.

The Bones of Paris is surprisingly fun given its dark tale and very entertaining. It is a great throwback to an era when pleasure and money collided to create an atmosphere that defined an entire generation. It is also something about which readers could quickly tire. The genre is formulaic after all and one can only listen to so many detective novels before even Harris Stuyvesant becomes redundant. Thankfully, The Bones of Paris makes for a great stand-alone story if one wants to dip one’s toes into Ms. King’s fiction and an excellent addition to her canon if one is already a fan.
  jmchshannon | Oct 4, 2014 |
From Booklist
*Starred Review* King takes a break from her popular Mary Russell series to return to the story of Harris Stuyvesant from Touchstone (2008). Formerly an FBI agent and now a dissolute PI, Harris is still haunted by the events in the earlier book, which left his lover, Sarah, maimed. Needing work, he accepts a missing-persons job that takes him to Paris in 1929 and offers the possibility of reuniting with Sarah. Fans of Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris will feel right at home in the Jazz Age Paris setting, though many of the famous Lost Generation figures are portrayed in a much less flattering light here (artist Man Ray, in particular, is a misogynist and murder suspect). The story is complex, more than a little kinky, and absolutely fascinating. The missing girl Harris seeks turns out to be only one of many missing persons who came into the orbit of a group of offbeat Parisian artists whose credo demands that art be visceral. Could the infamous Moreau, who creates tableaux using human bones to suggest the corruption of the flesh, be somehow connected to the missing young people? Harris noses about through familiar Left Bank haunts, encountering the era’s usual suspects (Hemingway, Sylvia Beach, Cole Porter, and Josephine Baker, among them), but beyond the cameos and the bohemian atmosphere, there is a compelling thriller here and some fascinating fictional characters to go with the real-life ones. As always with King, the plot is tricky but marvelously constructed, delivering twists that not only surprise but also deepen the story and its multiple levels of meaning. Break out that dusty bottle of absinthe you have stored away and settle in for a treat. HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: King’s Mary Russell novels are her biggest sellers, but Touchstone hit the extended New York Times list, and this follow-up has Paris and the Lost Generation going for it. And don’t discount the web-savvy King, who does online promotion as well as any author out there. --Bill Ott ( )
  camtb | Jul 4, 2014 |
Expected more of "Touchstone" Bennett Grey, one of my all-time favorite characters. This book left me disappointed and hoping that there may be a future book with Grey as protagonist.
  PaperDollLady | Jun 10, 2014 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
As a fan of her Mary Russell series, I was hoping that this book would live up to that series by Ms. King. This book didn't quite make it there, but it was still an enjoyably fun romp in the 1920s Paris art world, and I will most certainly read the first book in this series to see if I can figure out a few little questions that I have. ( )
  LauraBrook | Mar 25, 2014 |
Truly macrabe but says something about how artists can do almost anything in the name of "art" and folks will follow along with it. The fact that such a theatre really did exist is kind of depressing.

Plot and storyline were OK--no real surprises but still interesting enough to keep me reading.

Not for us though. ( )
  crucena | Mar 17, 2014 |
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a brother in more than law.
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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 Mon, 30 Sep 2013 14:12:10 -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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