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The Bones of Paris by Laurie R. King

Cover of The Bones of Paris
The Bones of Paris by Laurie R. King

Published by: Random House

Published on: September 10, 2013

Page Count: 432

Genre: Mystery

My Reading Format: Audiobook I snagged through Library Things’s Early Reviewer Program

Audiobook Published by: Recorded Books

Narrator: Jefferson Mays

Audiobook Length: 13 hours and 11 minutes

Available Formats: Hardcover, eBook, and Audiobook

Summary from the Publisher

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.

My Review

Harris Stuyvesant is a man who has lived his life adrift since the woman he loves was disfigured in an accident he could have prevented. He is an American man, but lives where ever he can find investigative work in Europe. The family of Philippa “Pip” Crosby dragged him out of Berlin and brought him back to Paris. Pip, the young daughter of a wealthy American family, had been discovering herself in 1920s Paris when she simply stopped writing home. Unbeknownst to her family, Stuyvesant had a fling with her before she disappeared. He took the assignment to get out of Berlin, but his deep need to find Pip was fueled by his guilty conscious. He had nothing to do with Pip’s disappearance, but he treated her only as a good time girl and she represented all of the romantic mistakes he’d made over the course of his life.

What I Enjoyed

  • The sights and sounds of 1920s Paris, especially the art scene.
  • This was my first novel featuring Harris Stuyvesant. I enjoyed his complexity and his messiness. I appreciated that he had a soul and, when he stopped to pay attention, saw what was worthy in other people. I also appreciated that Laurie R. King wrote this book in such a way that it stood alone on its own. I never felt at a loss during The Bones of Paris because this was my first encounter with Stuyvesant.
  • The “Conversation” chapters that took place without Stuyvesant’s knowledge were interesting and made it fun to speculate about what really was happening.

What Didn’t Work As Well For Me

  • This book slowed down as it reached the middle and it didn’t speed back up for me until near the end.
  • As his investigation progresses without much result, Harris became more desperate to find Pip. He kept returning to an actual historical figure as his prime suspect in her disappearance. Even if I bought Stuyvesant’s arguments for this character’s involvement, this person was never accused of any criminal activity during his lifetime. As a modern reader I found it extremely unlikely, making that line of speculation feel especially long.
  • Stuyvestant was simply a private investigator. He wasn’t a man of influence or affluence. Still, he knew or was acquainted with just about every famous person in Paris. There were sections of the book that felt like name dropping as a result. Since those sections rarely if ever advanced the story, it did nothing more than weight the story down.

Audiobook Production and Narrator Jefferson Mays

  • I snagged this book as part of Library Thing’s Early Reviewer program. I first attempted to read this book in print as the book hadn’t arrived yet. I had a hole in my reading schedule and thought I’d get a head start by picking up a copy at the library. Toward the middle of the book I picked up something else. While I found Stuyvesant interesting, I realized I didn’t have any innate need to find out what happened to Pip Crosby. A couple of weeks later the audiobook I actually snagged arrived in the mail. While I had the temptation to skip through the disks to get to where I last left the story, I listened to the audiobook from the beginning. This was my first experience listening to Jefferson Mays narrate. I was impressed. His tone kept the listen pleasant even while the story itself was slow. While the main character is American, Mays handled both French and British accents well. While he didn’t alter his voice or accent a great deal for female characters, I always knew who was speaking in a scene.
  • This audiobook was produced by Recorded Books. The audiobook was well made. There was only one time when I think I might have noticed a sentence that was corrected, but I’m not entirely sure.
  • This audiobook had audible prompts at the end and beginning of each CD. When I first started listening to audiobooks on my car stereo, my preference was to have those prompts. Most of the audiobooks I’ve listened to on CD do not have them. Over time, I must have gotten used to figuring out the transitions on my own because now I think I prefer not to get prompted.

Overall Impressions

I am glad that I gave this book a second chance because what the author did with the mystery itself was interesting. I am not sure that’s enough to make me want to pick up the first book in this series or any that are to follow. I prefer my mysteries to be faster paced. This would be a good selection for those who like slow burns. Jefferson May is another story entirely. He made this book enjoyable even when I wasn’t as gripped by the story itself. I would definitely pick up another audiobook performed by Jefferson Mays.

6 Comments

  • At 2014.02.27 11:32, KET said:

    “Touchstone”, the first book, is really great. When I first picked it up, the summary on the back gave me the impression of a really fast paced thriller with exciting action, but that’s the wrong take. It’s really a very slow burn of character development and angst, and it really explores the friendship of Stuyvesant and Bennett Gray in depth–it’s their meeting story and their relationship is central to the mystery. If you like the historical aspect, King does a great job of 1920s England, particularly with the Red Scare going through the city and the changing politics, and if you liked the interaction of Stuyvesant and Gray, which is really only touched on in “Bones of Paris,” I would recommend you pick up “Touchstone.”

    • At 2014.02.27 11:39, Jennifer said:

      Thanks for the recommendation. I did really enjoy that friendship. I’ll add Touchstone to my TBR. Sometimes you really should start at the beginning with a series.

    • At 2014.02.27 13:15, Sandy said:

      I need a little bit of action going on, especially in mysteries. I’m too distracted generally to stay focused otherwise. I love how you balanced out the review though. Some readers might find this book to be exactly what they are looking for.

      • At 2014.02.27 18:40, Michele said:

        I got this one through LT, too. And it just didn’t work for me, mostly because I needed to do Touchstone first. So I ordered that via library and then will give this one another shot. This author can be quirky though…she can be fabulously fun (her Mary Russell series is one of my absolute favorites ever) or so incredibly dark I need to wash my hands after reading (A Darker Place nearly made me sick). Go figure.

        • At 2014.02.27 20:20, Kailana said:

          The book description for this sounds really good to me. I have seen mixed reactions, though.

          • At 2014.02.27 20:27, Serena said:

            This sounds like an interesting premise that just didn’t pan out well. I would hate that name-dropping aspect.

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