To Read Is to Fly

“To read is to fly: it is to soar to a point of vantage which gives a view over wide terrains of history, human variety, ideas, shared experience and the fruits of many inquiries.” 
― Alberto Manguel

 

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The Bones of Paris: A Novel of Suspense - Laurie R. King [b:The Bones of Paris: A Novel of Suspense|17262138|The Bones of Paris A Novel of Suspense|Laurie R. King|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1364251158s/17262138.jpg|23858936] opens in Paris in September 1929. Harris Stuyvesant, the former agent of the US Bureau of Investigation (later to become the FBI)is attempting to shake off the aftershocks of the case in the first book in this series, [b:Touchstone|1272835|Touchstone|Laurie R. King|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1188478607s/1272835.jpg|1261789]. He is hired by the family of Philippa Crosby, a beautiful 22-year old American who has disappeared after living, modeling, acting, and socializing in Montparnesse -- and also after having a brief fling with Harris, which complicates his involvement as an investigator. As he attempts to discover what happened to Pip, Stuyvesant wends his way through the streets of Paris, meeting artists and other members of the avant-garde. His investigations lead him to the work of Surrealists such as Man Ray, who meet the devastation of the Great War by exploding the restrictions of rational thought, instead bringing dreams -- and nightmares -- to life in their work. Is it possible that this artistic movement holds the key to what happened to Pip? And did other young women share her fate?

I am notoriously picky about fictional representations of history (one of the dangers of being a historian), but in this case King has -- as usual -- done her homework. She brings to life the avant-garde community of Montparnesse, but does so within a specific cultural and historical context that helps to support her storyline. Stuyvesant is a personable protagonist, coming across as more uncertain and haunted than he did in [b:Touchstone|1272835|Touchstone|Laurie R. King|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1188478607s/1272835.jpg|1261789]. While Bennett Grey and Sarah Grey make a late appearance in the novel, this is really Stuyvesant's case. During the course of his investigation, Stuyvesant interacts with a number of historical figures, including not only Man Ray, but also Sylvia Beach, Ernest Hemingway, Pablo Picasso, and Ada "Bricktop" Smith, among others. Normally, this kind of namedropping makes me fidget a bit, but King balances these famous characters out with fictional ones, and inserts the famous characters seamlessly into the world of Montparnesse. Stuyvesant also meets Nancy Berger, Pip's roommate, an engaging character who helps to ground the plot (and Stuyvesant) in the midst of a storyline that becomes more and more macabre as the novel goes on.

The ending of the novel is rather far-fetched, but by that point I was so immersed in the world that King creates that I was happy to go along for the ride. Recommended for lovers of mysteries and historical fiction who are open to visiting the dark side of surrealism.

I received an ARC of this book via Netgalley in return for an honest review.

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