Laurie R. King has become widely known as a literary, even intellectual, mystery writer. Her series featuring Mary Russell (the wife of Sherlock Holmes) and police officer Kate Martinelli have drawn praise for incorporating theology, history, philosophy and literature into some pretty nail-biting mystery plots. King has also published a handful of stand-alone mysteries. Her latest, THE BONES OF PARIS, is a companion piece of sorts to an earlier novel, TOUCHSTONE. Given the appeal of its likably flawed protagonist, Harris Stuyvesant, readers may find themselves hoping that this is the makings of a new series as well.
Harris Stuyvesant is a big man, a former FBI agent with a chip on his shoulder about his former boss, J. Edgar Hoover. He's a skilled investigator, even if he sometimes goes a little too far to get to the bottom of a case. He's something of a ladies' man --- and also something of a mess, both physically and emotionally. He can't stop thinking about his former lover --- who spurned him after she was maimed in an attack he might have prevented --- even as he finds temporary comfort in other women's arms.
"Laurie R. King does an admirable job of portraying a realistic protagonist and of revealing the vulnerable emotions that often underlie his bravado. Her real gift here, though, is in bringing the vibrant, often surprisingly violent, artistic community of late 1920s Paris to life."
One of those women is the much younger Philippa (Pip) Crosby, with whom Harris had had something of a dalliance a few months earlier. Now Pip has turned up missing in Paris, and Harris has been tasked with trying to find the young flapper in the midst of Paris's debauchery-filled nightlife scene. Harris soon finds out that he didn't really know Pip at all, despite their intimate time together. His investigation draws him deep into the underbelly of the city's burgeoning artistic scene.
Cole Porter, Ernest Hemingway, Man Ray, and other real-life figures all play roles in Harris's story; some are even suspects in his investigation. Along the way, Harris runs afoul of the law on more than one occasion, and he reencounters figures from his past who may complicate his investigation in other ways. And, of course, all the while he's trying to string along another young woman --- this one the roommate of the missing Pip Crosby.
Laurie R. King does an admirable job of portraying a realistic protagonist and of revealing the vulnerable emotions that often underlie his bravado. Her real gift here, though, is in bringing the vibrant, often surprisingly violent, artistic community of late 1920s Paris to life. Savvy readers may not be entirely surprised by the identity of King's perpetrator. Most everyone, however, will come away from THE BONES OF PARIS having learned something new about the City of Lights and the artists and writers who made it their home in the early 20th century.
Reviewed by Norah Piehl on September 20, 2013