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3.4 out of 5 stars14
3.4 out of 5 stars
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on 23 February 2015
In real terms, five years have passed since Laurie R. King opened the Harris Stuyvesant series with "Touchstone", during which time she has mostly been working on her Mary Russell series. However, she has now returned to Harris Stuyvesant and the five year gap between that novel and this, ''The Bones of Paris'', has made quite a difference.

It is 1929 and Harris Stuyvesant has now left the Bureau of Investigation and England behind him and is working as a Private Investigator in Europe. An American, who Stuyvesant had met, has gone missing and Stuyvesant is approached by her Uncle and her Mother to find her. The missing girl, Pip Crosby, was involved with a group of artists in the Montparnasse and Montmartre areas of the city. Many of them seem to have known her, but few have seen her in some time.

Stuyvesant's investigations are hampered by the sudden reappearance into his life of Sarah Grey, a woman who Stuyvesant has been pining for ever since the events of ''Touchstone'', but who is now working for one of Stuyvesant's main suspects and engaged to another man, who happens to be heading up the Missing Persons department of the Paris Police. As one of Stuyvesant's friends is murdered, another goes missing, and he gets mixed signals from Pip's former flat mate, it is no wonder he can't keep his fists under control, which lands him in more trouble.

I found the pacing of the book much improved from ''Touchstone'', as the scope of the novel was much smaller and the word of artists and actors was much faster moving than the world of politics depicted in the previous novel. There was far less time spent on back story and background, which also helped as it meant that virtually every event depicted here was helping the plot move along, even if the plot was moving Stuyvesant round in circles some of the time.

The story was an interesting one as well, with a number of dark and macabre ideas that author as well as characters seemed to revel in. For readers of a more nervous disposition, some of the descriptions may leave them with a slight unease, but as a horror fan, I quite enjoyed them. These sections and those in the carefree bars and restaurants of Paris had a looseness and a party feel that was almost entirely missing from ''Touchstone'', where even a simple luncheon was often politically charged. The story as a whole broke free of the shackles of the previous book and was much the better for it.

In her first book in the series, King's imagination shone through and that is definitely the case here. She mixes historical characters with a heavy dose of intrigue and for those like me with little knowledge of art or history, it's often difficult to tell how much fact and how much fiction is in play at any given moment. Not that I was particularly bothered by that, as whichever I was reading was thoroughly enjoyable.

Perhaps the only let down was that many of the crime thriller clichés seemed to be present here. Stuyvesant being down on his luck and having turned to drink and meaningless sexual encounters to get over a former love, only for that love to suddenly reappear in his life was nothing new. Whilst the reveal was interesting, the manner of it, with suspect and potential victim having a long conversation before events take their expected turn was also disappointing in its use. An old friend becoming suddenly involved, yet pivotal, the Private Investigator being accused at one point and a relationship with a close friend of his subject have all been seen before.

I much preferred ''The Bones of Paris'' to its predecessor, as the pacing was much better and the macabre feel appealed to me. But despite being very readable and having great imagination on display, the use of so many of the genre clichés made it feel desperately formulaic in parts, which was a bit of a letdown, but I figure I can afford the odd minor letdown here and there.

This review may also appear, in whole or in part, under my name at any or all of,,, and
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on 11 November 2013
The Bones of Paris is an historical (1920s) novel following PI Harris Stuyvesant as he searches for missing American Philippa Crosby, a girl with whom he has previously had an `encounter' with. As he follows her movements he comes across something darker than just a missing girl.

I'm not a fan of historical fiction but King's descriptions of old Paris drew me it. It was a little strange having so many famous people encountered or namedropped such as Cole Porter and Man Rey, and whilst these people were part of the artistes' scene of the day in Paris, it did seem a tad overdone and each time drew me slightly out of the flow of the novel. I have to admit that King has tried to blend them in seamlessly with the fictional characters but for me it didn't quite work.

The plot itself is slow to start but builds well and is full of intrigue and suspense. There is a dark, disturbing side to The Bones of Paris that I don't remember being in the Kate Martinelli books, but it added to the reading experience; as did the weird and wonderful characters Stuyvesant encounters.

I had not read the previous Stuyvesant novel Touchstone, and at times, particularly in the first few chapters I did feel like I was missing something, but overall it did not impact my enjoyment of the book. I would however recommend reading Touchstone before moving onto The Bones of Paris.

[Review copy provided by publisher]
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It's 1929 and Paris is filled with avant-garde artists leading the bohemian life. So when Harris Stuyvesant, ex-FBI agent turned private investigator, is hired to find a missing young American woman he fully expects to find her so immersed in this exciting world that she's simply forgotten the folks back home. That is, until he meets Inspector Doucet, a man worried about unsolved disappearances stretching back for years. As Harris plunges into the strange and twisted world of surrealist art, Grand Guinol theatre, decadence and drugs, he begins to realise that the glittering artistic society hides a dark secret...

This is a fairly slow-burn thriller, with the author taking time to build character and give a vivid depiction of bohemian Paris between the wars. The second in a series, it works well as a standalone, although more and more I wished I'd read the first book first. King fills in enough background on the three recurring characters as the book progresses but I found I really wanted to know what had happened in the past to bring them to where they were in this book.

Stuyvesant is an engaging hero, hard-boiled on the surface but with a soft heart that he sometimes can't keep hidden. As he becomes attracted to the missing girl's roommate, his life is complicated when he meets up with the lost love of his life. Sarah is now working as assistant to the Comte de Charmentier, one of the men Stuyvesant suspects knows more about Pip's disappearance than he's telling. And as Stuyvesant gradually gets nearer the truth, he realises that Sarah herself may be in danger...

King takes us into the world of experimental art and theatre; a world both sensual and disturbing, led by men shaped in part by their experiences of the horrors of war and now stretching the bounds of morality in their lives and their art. King mixes real and fictional characters together so skilfully that this reader was never sure where the dividing line was, and I found her picture of this selfish and self-absorbed society completely convincing. The story is often macabre, sometimes gruesome, but always compelling. Highly recommended, though I would suggest it's probably better to read them in order - I have added the first book, Touchstone, to my own TBR list and will be intrigued to see where King takes her characters in future books.

NB This book was provided for review by the publisher, Random House.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 22 September 2013
I've read a couple of King's Mary Russell/Sherlock Holmes books and have enjoyed them as good romps. This one is somewhat different. Set in Paris in 1929, this is full of local colour: Sylvia Beach has her English bookshop, Shakespeare & Company; Picasso and Miro are painting; Man Ray is working on photography and films; Hemingway and Fitzgerald are writing. Into this world of frenetic artistic activity comes an American private eye, looking for a missing American girl - and uncovering that she's only one of a series.

This is quite slow-paced at times, and seems to concentrate more on local colour than plot. Our `hero' is a 1930s `gum-shoe' type with a penchant for glamorous women, and the personal relationships complicate the story.

This conveys a nice atmosphere of the macabre and grotesque, and the way they become a part of art in this period (the Grand-Guignol has an important part to play in this story) - so a nicely-sketched in cultural background, but a wildly improbable serial-killer plot.

(This review is from an ARC courtesy of the publisher)
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on 19 August 2014
Another exciting mystery from Laurie King featuring her American detective, Harris Stuveysant. 1929 Paris is powerfully evoked, the atmosphere is sinister, the characters appealing, and the mystery suitably complex.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 21 September 2013
Although I was delighted to get this as an ARC for review via a digital copy (not particularly well-done) from the publishers, as I had very much enjoyed Laurie R. King's The Beekeeper's Apprentice, the first in her successful series of Mary Russell/pastiche Sherlock Holmes stories, delight began to dissipate

Clearly the Mary Russell well has now run dry and King has now embarked on a new character, set in the 1920's, an American investigator Harris Stuyvesant. Indeed it rather looks as if 2 books will be released quite quickly*, one book introducing the investigator and his friend Bennett Grey, a shadowy figure shell-shocked by the war, who may be of interest to British Intelligence, and Stuyvesant himself.

This book, The Bones of Paris, is book 2, and is set in the artistic milieu of 20's Paris, and real characters from that time stroll through the pages, cheek by jowl with King's fictional creations, mainly from that world. And this provided my dislike of the book, despite its generally good writing, interesting characters and fairly taut plotting (though there a couple of irritating shadowy allusions and deviations into the Grey/British Intelligence back story, which only serve to be annoying to readers who have not read the first book, and add nothing whatsoever, even to those who might have done).

I really enjoyed finding Hemingway, Tristan Tzara, Bunuel etc appear within the pages, until it became clear that a couple of other real artists were being abused in the service of King's fiction. It is not good enough to say (as is done in the afterword) that the abuse of a particular real person was completely fictional. It amounts to a character assassination, effectively. However pleasant or unpleasant the person may have been is rather an irrelevance, when the central character (whom the reader is encouraged to identify with) is making some very dark accusations against this person. King's disclaimer of nothing being true except their genius just won't do.

Had she allowed all real characters to be peripheral and `crowd extras' and made all central characters fictional, instead of fictionalising a real character, I would have rated this higher

*I stand corrected re the quick release of 2 volumes at once, see the comment below - Touchstone was released 5 years ago but has been RE-released in paperback to coincide with the publication of The Bones Of Paris. Though this doesn't in any way change my view of the abuse of now dead, real people, which is the reason for my dislike of King's book. I can't say too much of what she does, and to whom, as these would be spoilers.
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on 3 March 2015
Harris is hired by the American family of a missing girl. He also has a personal reason for wanting to find her, as they were former lovers. Paris has been taken over by artists, and Americans have flocked to experience the seedy side of the city where there is a fascination for the macabre. The police have a long list of missing people. Then Harris starts to see a pattern emerge. A truly gruesome yet intriguing tale.
June Finnigan - writer.
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on 24 February 2015
Quite hard to pick up but worth the investment. The foreboding builds and builds to a captivating final third. Not being much cop with the 20s art scene it was quite easy to ignore the real characters and just become engrossed in the thick plot. Everything connects, each scene is painted beautifully and colourfully. One of those that you miss once you're finished.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 16 September 2013
First Sentence: The envelope reached Bennett Grey early Wednesday afternoon.

There's nothing to equal a powerful opening that contains evocative descriptions which paint mental pictures. We feel a connection to Bennett, even though we know nothing about him. King has captivated us and ensured our waiting to follow along, even if it is to a sex-scented bedroom in Paris.

Unfortunately, we also soon run into an issue which can be very annoying. Apparently, there was a prior book with these characters; "Touchstone". Without having read the first book, one feels rather lost in understanding the character relationships. An even greater shortcoming is that neither the back story of the character in the prologue, nor the character himself, appears until much later in this book. Rather than being intriguing, it starts to leave the reader feeling lost and dissatisfied, particularly as he is one of the most interesting characters of the book and doesn't reappear until nearly two-thirds of the way into the story.

Stuyvesant is the primary narrator of the story and an interesting one. He is a perfect reflection of the period, yet not someone you always like. He is the 1920s noir private eye, yet not so tough he is without vulnerability and self doubt. The relationship between Harris and Grey's sister Sarah, and the scenes of them together are some of the most powerful of the story.

King's dialogue has the feel of the period. You can almost hear the narrator of a black and white film from the period..."It's always a shock, when someone cares more about a thing than you do." King adeptly plays with the reader's psyche. At the same time, she is very good at conveying the persona of whosoever's POV controls each section of the story, and at conveying emotion..."The list was, in fact, a ringed notebook bulging with anguish and loss.".

King captures Paris beautifully..."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 ...." She creates a very strong sense of place and, as the art and artists of the time play a significant role to the story--and she does include almost every one of them who was in Paris during that time--, her descriptions may send one to the internet to learn more about the individuals and their art. This also, however, becomes an issue as some of the narrative sections become so long, the reader may start looking for the actual story wondering where the core of the plot has gone.

I was relieved when we did get back to the story but dismayed when I identified the villain fairly early on. While the climactic scene was suspenseful and dramatic, it was also a bit over the top with shades of Edgar Allen Poe.

"The Bones of Paris" has some great strengths but also some painful weaknesses. It is an interesting book and one I never considered putting down. Yet, I can't help but wonder whether a much stronger editor would have solves some of the issues and made it a much better book. Please, authors, do use and listen to your editors. It's unfortunately, as Ms. King is a very good writer and her book "Folly" will always remain as one of my favorites.

THE BONES OF PARIS (Hist Mys/Susp-Harris Stuyvesant-Paris-1929) - Okay
King, Laurie R.
Bantam, 2013
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on 24 June 2016
I was deeply disappointed in this book by an author I usually enjoy greatly. I found it revolting and gave up, went to the end and found it hadn't improved.
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