Title: The Bones of Paris
Author: Laurie R. King
Narrator: Jefferson Mays
Audiobook Length: 13 hours, 11 minutes
Origins: Mine. All mine.
Release Date: 10 September 2013
Bottom Line: Enjoyable but ultimately not the series for me
“New York Times bestselling author Laurie R. King garners widespread acclaim for her suspenseful novels rich with historical detail. Set in the vibrant Paris Jazz Age, The Bones of Paris introduces private investigator Harris Stuyvesant, an American agent who’ s been given the plum assignment of locating beautiful young model Philippa Crosby. But when Philippa’ s trail ends at the Theatre du Grand-Guignol in Montmartre, Stuyvesant discovers a world where art meets sexual depravity– and where a savage killer lurks in the shadows.”
Thoughts: Harris Stuyvesant is arrogant. He’s brash, stubborn, and guilty of machismo. All of this should antagonize modern readers. Instead, he embodies the quintessential private detective of 1920s. He has all of the directness of the loosening morals of the Jazz Era with the hardened experience of a war veteran. He is direct. He is intense. He is so very male. He is the perfect hero for The Bones of Paris.
The story is little more than a traditional detective novel. A woman is lost; family members hire a private detective to find her. There is an added sense of debauchery in the popularity of the macabre Modernist movement, to which Harris is firmly introduced. The sense of unease those works by Man Ray and his peers cause within Harris set the tone of the novel. In many aspects, what Harris discovers during his investigation about the 1920s art world not only makes for fascinating reading and great suspense, it also provides a sad but unspoken commentary on the state of Europeans after the first world war and their willingness to accept the dark and disturbed as entertainment.
What makes The Bones of Paris so entertaining are the historical details. There are the close-knit communities of the American expatriates and of artists, with much overlap between the two. There are the scandalized and the scandalous – those pushing the envelope of the excesses of the Jazz Era and those who are fighting those excesses with every breath. There are the war veterans still struggling with processing their battlefield scars, emotional as well as physical. There is a growing socialist movement, which will soon ignite certain parts of Europe. There is the influx of the newly rich, riding the stock market as it climbs to ever higher heights and the sense of infallibility that this is one thing that will never change. There is the night life for which Paris during the Jazz Age is famous, during which drinking, smoking and doing drugs to excess were the norm and worked off during sweaty bouts of dancing to the latest jazz tunes long into the wee hours of the night. The Bones of Paris has it all. More importantly, the story enfolds readers so that one feels very much a part of this vibrant setting.
Jefferson Mays steps into Harris’ macho shoes and provides an excellent narration of this quintessential 1920s male detective novel. He adopts the insouciance of the era with ease. His adaptation for the feminine voice is decent, and his French flows effortlessly. His voice is easy on the ears, and he speaks with the deliberate cadence of that era. His performance wonderfully enhances the overall entertainment quality of the story.
The Bones of Paris is surprisingly fun given its dark tale and very entertaining. It is a great throwback to an era when pleasure and money collided to create an atmosphere that defined an entire generation. It is also something about which readers could quickly tire. The genre is formulaic after all and one can only listen to so many detective novels before even Harris Stuyvesant becomes redundant. Thankfully, The Bones of Paris makes for a great stand-alone story if one wants to dip one’s toes into Ms. King’s fiction and an excellent addition to her canon if one is already a fan.