I’ve read quite a few books this year, but this is by far the best.
Everything about this first book in a new mystery series by Mark Pryor is so good. The dialogue feels real, the setting (Nazi-Occupied Paris, 1940) suits my addiction to historical fiction, and seemingly every page has an unexpected turn of events.
Inspector Henri Lefort has five days to solve the murder of a German officer whose body was found inside the Louvre museum. Lefort was denied access to the crime scene and the murder weapon, but was given a list of five suspects. Clever, witty, sarcastic and cynical, Lefort and his assistant, Nicola, begin the impossible task of finding a murderer in time to save his own life. Henri and Nicola understand the consequences if Henri does not solve the crime in five days.
As Henri begins to question those on the suspect list, he meets and interviews Pablo Picasso, among others who know more than they are willing to share. As he walks the streets of his beloved Paris and his search for a murderer continues, he knows he is being followed. One misstep could land him in a German concentration camp, or worse, because Henri has his own secrets.
These secrets and his memories of another war, and this occupation of Paris and this war, exacerbate his PTSD. When he meets Princess Marie Bonapart at the scene of a burglary at her home, she sees beneath his blasé and sarcastic attitude and encourages Henri (with the promise of a bottle of Chateau Petrus at each session) to seek psychological counselling. As his own story unfolds and he shares his long-suppressed secrets with the princess, the murder of the German officer and his past converge in a most unexpected turn of events.
This latest book by Mark Pryor has truly engaging characters, witty dialogue that made me smile, descriptions of Paris that brought back fond memories, and encounters with the enemy that got me thinking. . I look forward to the other books in this series and more adventures with Inspector Henri Lefort and his assistant Nicola – and maybe Picasso and Princess Bonaparte will also make appearances. We will see.
• “Die Around Sundown” by Mark Pryor was published Tuesday by Minotaur BooksAugust 16. It retails for $27.99.
• Irene M. Pearcey is Assistant Manager at Inklings Bookshop. She and other Inklings staff review books in this space each week.