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.
If the macabre and gruesome are not what you enjoy in your reading material this is a book that you may want to pass over; it’s also the second book in a series, which I didn’t realise when I started reading and I feel that by not reading book one I may have missed some important details that would have raised the rating of this book higher. However, with that said, this novel is a stand alone with a few grey areas.
The main protagonist is a private investigator, not the usual sort but a man who follows the money and goes where he is needed. I found him to be unlikable and lacking in the kind of judgement I would have hoped to see in a man of this kind, and despite his being on retainer he seems to spend his time throughout the book living from hand to mouth and making bad decisions about most aspects of his life and the case the book centres around. There is no real depth to him, or any of the other characters mentioned in the book, and this made it a slow and plodding read for me.
Location wise though I could not fault the book; Paris at the tail end of the 1920’s and featuring some of its more famous residents, was well written and researched. I particularly enjoyed the references to the Paris catacombs, and the way in which they came about. I seem to be reading a lot of books that feature places I have visited, and this one was no different; because of this the visual elements of the story, such as the aforementioned catacombs came vividly to life. I did find, however, that the lack of pages given over to solving the crime was rather disconcerting and that when the culprit was revealed it was rather an anti-climax.
For anyone who has read the first book in this series, they may enjoy this one; as for me I doubt if I will go back and read book one as this book was a disappointment that would be hard to recover from. I also doubt that I will read anything else by this Author.