The Paris Enigma
An enigma, by definition, is a puzzling or inexplicable
occurrence or situation, as in this example: His disappearance is
an enigma that has given rise to much speculation.
Sigmundo Salvatrio, the son of an Argentine shoemaker, always
loved puzzles. Every year on his birthday, his father bought him a
jigsaw puzzle. His enjoyment of these gifts led him to answer an ad
that allowed him to join several other lads from Buenos Aires in
learning the art of investigation from Renato Craig. Craig, one of
The Twelve Detectives, a group of famous detectives from around the
world, was one of the founders of their society formed to celebrate
their cases and share knowledge. It has been years since the club
has met, but that is about to change, at the Paris World’s
Fair in the late 1800s.
Craig had been working on his last case when he placed that ad.
His health was failing and he wanted to find an acolyte, if for
only a brief time. Salvatrio became that person and could not have
been a better choice, for Salvatrio claimed, “I wasn’t
really interested in gory crimes, but the other kind: the perfect
enigmas, the ones that, at first glance, were inexplicable.”
Salvatrio was particularly intrigued by the closed-door cases.
Craig sends Salvatrio to Paris as his emissary, entrusting
Salvatrio with his cane, a multipurpose tool, including a hidden
weapon. The detectives each have been asked to display a special
item for the Fair’s spectators.
Shortly after Salvatrio’s arrival in Paris, one of the
Twelve dies under suspect circumstances. The acolytes and remaining
detectives rush to investigate the case. Was it an accident, a
murder, or did the man commit suicide? That question is quickly
solved. Of course, it was murder. But who killed him? Salvatrio
embarks on his first closed-door case, considered such because of
its enigmatic characteristics, and despite the fact that it
occurred high above ground on the Eiffel Tower, still under
While working to answer the question of the killer’s
identity, the group discovers that the streets of Paris have many
hidden dangers, in addition to the wonders of the Fair. Salvatrio
enjoys the unraveling of the mysteries, the excitement of the chase
and the surprise of the solution. The other assistants have the
benefit of long service to their detectives. They look upon the
Argentine with distrust, dismissing him as inexperienced and as
something of an interloper. Meanwhile, he listens and learns. The
master detectives love to share their favorite cases as they boost
their egos with stories of cleverly closing the tough ones. And
they very much dislike their acolytes to speak unless spoken to.
Salvatrio has a tendency to ignore the rules. Lucky for him,
because the rules would lead him off track.
Full of World’s Fair trivia and a host of mysteries
wrapped inside mysteries, THE PARIS ENIGMA takes its readers back
to a time when law enforcement was in its infancy. Criminals had
the advantage, since forensics barely existed and police work
involved very simple investigative procedures. But the killer in
this case couldn’t outsmart the investigators.
History buffs as well as mystery fans will welcome Pablo De
Santis’s highly intricate novel. The suspense carries you
forward even while you stroll down a long-ago memory lane.
Reviewed by Kate Ayers on January 14, 2011