The Bones of Paris
By Laurie R King
Bantam September 2013
Won from Olduvai Reads
Harris Stuyvesant is hired to track down a missing girl in 1932 Paris. Philippa Crosby is a beautiful American woman who spent her days among artists and actors. As Stuyvesant investigates her disappearance, he discovers the dark side of the art world - the macabre theatre of The Grand Guignol and artists who create their pieces from bones. Which of them knows what happened to Pip?
Historical characters play large and small roles in this novel. We meet Man Ray, Cole Porter, Sylvia Beach, and Ernest Hemingway on the street corner and sitting nearby in the bar. King does a wonderful job of placing these characters into the fabric of the story without stopping the plot to say, "Oh look! Here is a famous writer/artist/socialite. Wasn't Paris fantastic?"
The Bones of Paris is very dark. At its surface, this is a story of women who disappear without a trace and men who murder without remorse. But more than that, it's about the line between entertainment and perversion when it comes to both sex and violence. The book is pervasively and consistently dark and heavy. The first World War is over and people are living with that pain and grief. They look for ways to deal with the horrors that they have experienced, but they don't know how to process what they have seen and done. This would be a great book to read in the fall when you are craving a dark story for Halloween It has lots of mystery, violence, and even a few visits to the catacombs.
This is the second book in a series. I haven't read the first book and I didn't feel confused by the characters or the events. That being said, I felt some distance from the characters. Stuyvesant feels like that typical cop character - he is a loner and he looks for solace from a good drink or a night with a woman. But I missed that feeling of fear and hope for the characters you really adore. Perhaps readers who have also read Touchstone will relate better to these characters, but it's worth your time for a truly atmospheric story.