Saturday, 10 May 2014

The Bookseller by Mark Pryor

published 2012


The largest of Notre Dame’s bells tolled noon just as Hugo reached the end of the bridge…

Five minutes later he spotted a riverside bookstall, four green metal boxes bolted to the low wall and crammed with books, their colorful spines like the feathers of a bird fanned out on the shelves to attract passersby. The stall’s owner was stooped over a box, the hem of his worn, gray coat brushing the pavement. A shoelace had come undone but the man ignored it, even as his fingers scrabbled through the postcards, inches away.


A barrage of shouting made the seller straighten and both men looked toward the voices, ringing out from a stall about fifty yards away, across the entrance to the Pont Neuf bridge. A man, squat and burly, poked a finger and yelled at the stall’s owner, a crimson-faced woman who was bundled against the cold and determined to give as good as she got.


The old man shook his head and turned back to his box
.






observations: The bookstalls on the quais of the Seine are an icon for the city of Paris, and most visitors must have seen them and perhaps wondered about them: their history, and who gets to sell from them. This book will tell you all that, though with a hard edge of crime involved. (I expected to see a note at the end to say that the booksellers and their organization are in fact wholly law-abiding and safe, but no such assurance was found.)

Our hero, Hugo Marston, is the head of security at the American Embassy, and he is about to get mixed up in troubles with the bookstalls when his favourite vendor disappears. The plot takes in modern crimes, drug wars, and collaboration troubles left over from World War 2.

My friend Col of Col’s Criminal Library sent me this book, which he reviewed himself here. I very much enjoyed the Parisian atmosphere – Pryor did cold foggy evenings on the Seine very nicely indeed, and the plot kept rolling along nicely, with lots of investigation and a good few twists and turns. I wasn’t wholly convinced by the ease with which the hero lured the lady reporter into his bed, though. This is the first of a series, and the Parisian setting (plus the fact that kind Col has given me the books) will keep me reading.

In his review, Col makes this important point:
The author did raise an inadvertent chuckle. Pryor is a former UK journalist, now residing in Austin, Texas, hometown of Lance Armstrong. Marston exhibits great pride when the Hotel Crillon flies the Texan flag in celebration of Armstrong’s 7th victory in the Tour de France.
The images come from an 1893 book on the bouqinistes in the British Library.

10 comments:

  1. Moira, glad you enjoyed it and thanks for linking.
    Lacking Hugo's seduction skills and confidence myself, I could only look on in envy as he wooed the journo! More in admiration than skeptically.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you for the book, and I'm entertained by the gender difference thrown up by this vital point!

      Delete
  2. Moira - I'm glad you enjoyed this. And what a great setting! I wouldn't have that espionage and security would get mixed up with a bookstall mystery, but why not? I think I might read it just for the atmosphere if nothing else.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think the American dimension gives a great way of getting in to the story, and means that helpful explanations don't sound out of place. And a good Paris atmosphere is always a come-on, isn't it?

      Delete
  3. This will go on my reading list. Paris and bookstalls: a perfect combination.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes exactly - it's not going to change the world, but it can't not be interesting with that combination....

      Delete
  4. Glen has this book (has not read it yet). I am sure I will read it sometime. Neither you nor Col sound overwhelmed with this book. It will be interesting to see what Glen thinks about it.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It must be very helpful to have your own in-house reviewer! The setting was the best thing about it.

      Delete
    2. Glen and I don't always enjoy the same things, but I can get a feel for the book from his descriptions and opinions. And when he buys something, I don't have to.

      Delete
    3. It sounds like you have a nice symbiotic book relationship.

      Delete