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The Black Tower by Louis Bayard

The Black Tower (original 2008; edition 2008)

by Louis Bayard

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6274615,477 (3.84)126
Title:The Black Tower
Authors:Louis Bayard
Info:William Morrow (2008), Hardcover, 368 pages
Collections:Your library, Books Read in 2012
Tags:fiction, 20th century, literature-American, mystery, adventure, fiction-historical, Have read

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The Black Tower by Louis Bayard (2008)


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I absolutely loved this book! When I first started it, I was a little thrown off by the use of modern language and forensic techniques in 19th century England, but as I got further along, the writing style combined with the historic setting started to flow together. What annoyed me in the beginning of the book, I found charming by the end of it. ( )
  bjh3038 | Aug 22, 2014 |
A very interesting alternate history of the lost dauphin. Bayard's writing is always conspiratorial with his reader, and this one is no exception. If you have my habit of occasionally reading the dialogue aloud, there is a section that should reduce you to tears. Bayard really does manage to immerse his readers in the time period of his books; terrific. ( )
  MerryKat | Aug 19, 2014 |
The Black Tower by Louis Bayard is a historical mystery set in 1818 Paris involving the lost Dauphin of France, Louis-Charles (who would have been Louis XVII if Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette hadn't lost their heads in the revolution). The novel also features the historical François Vidocq, a former criminal who became France's first Director of Security and one of the first detectives of the modern era.

The writing is good - 1st person present, which is difficult to pull off but Bayard does quite well with snappy (and often humorously vulgar) dialog, flashbacks, a diary, correspondence, and fast-paced narrative. Got a little long in the middle, as modern novels often do, but the denouement was satisfying. Bit of an anti-religious bias (Bayard writes for Salon after all), but again, it's something many modern novels stumble over. Too bad, decreases their shelf life. My rating: 6 out of 10. ( )
  ResAliens | Feb 6, 2014 |
The premise tugged at me because of The Man in the Iron Mask, the whole deal with Richard III and the princes in the tower and all those women who claimed to be Anastasia, Grand Duchess of Russia, and it is a little of all those. The inclusion of Vidocq adds a veneer of hard-boiled detective which is weird for this period (and locale) of history, but strangely it works. It balances the social striving that consumes a lot of the lives of everyone else, Hector included. And poor old Hector is in need of structure and stability, especially once he’s hit with the cyclone that is Vidocq. Oh is he ever the man out of his element. Eventually he gets up to speed though and proves an able “assistant” for the hard-driving Vidocq.

Like any good piece of historical fiction, this book blends the real and the unreal so skilfully that it’s hard to distinguish. Hector Carpentier, his family and friends are wholly fictional, but the royal family and Vidocq are not and provide anchors of believability. Then there is Hector’s narration. He’s yanked out of his comfortable self-pity by Vidocq’s driving enthusiasm and persistence and his whole attitude of surrender, first to his circumstances then to the pull of the conspiracy theory. The way he tells the tale has the ring of truth. Most of it is conversational and there are no “as you know, Bob’s” at least none so glaring that I noticed. Luckily I knew enough about the French Revolution and Restoration to understand what was not explicitly explained. This time period really came alive for me in the broad strokes and in the details. The journal reports were especially squirm-inducing.

Why does the Aristocracy persist? Why do people who largely have been abused by it, seek to restore it? Why do most attempts to replace it fail? Why are humans so damned competitive and suspicious? Why do so few of us have deep compassion? Where does Vidocq get his wonderful toys? These are just some of the questions to turn over while you read about the missing would-be King of France. ( )
  Bookmarque | Jan 27, 2014 |
Very good literary historical mystery with excellent narration by Simon Vance. As others have said, Vidocq makes the book in many ways. He's a larger than life character (as I believe he was in real life) - gruff, profane, brilliant and humorous. My only complaint is that the last 25% or so gets darker than I was really comfortable with but I'm a bit of a wimp when it comes to violence to defenseless characters. ( )
  CCleveland | Nov 27, 2013 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0061173509, Hardcover)

Vidocq! Master of disguise and chief of a newly created plainclothes police force, Vidocq is a man whose name sends terror rippling through the Parisian underworld of 1818—and the inconsequential life of Hector Carpentier is violently shaken when Vidocq storms into it. A former medical student living in his mother's Latin Quarter boardinghouse, Hector finds himself dragged into a dangerous mystery surrounding the fate of the dauphin, the ten-year-old son of King Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette presumed to have suffered a cruel death years earlier in Paris's dreaded Temple. But the truth of what happened may be even more shocking—and it will fall to an aimless young man and the most feared detective in Paris to see justice done for a frightened little boy in a black tower . . . no matter what the cost.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:24:10 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

Having used his mastery of disguise and surveillance to nab some of France's most notorious criminals, early nineteenth-century detective Vidocq teams up with obscure medical student Hector to track down the most challenging adversary of his career, a case with ties to the missing son of Marie Antoinette.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

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