Title: The Paris Librarian (Hugo Marston 6)
Author: Mark Pryor
Publisher: Seventh Street Books
Publication Date: 2016
Hugo Marston receives a call from friend Paul Rogers at the American Library in Paris about an upcoming book sale. Although the library’s twice monthly sales often include books well out of an embassy security agent’s salary, Paul informs Hugo that a first edition, autographed In Cold Blood is available and Hugo promises to stop by to check it out. Paul directs him to a small storage room, he calls the atelier, in the basement, where he hides out every morning to write his book. However, when Hugo arrives, the door is locked and Paul doesn’t answer. After searching the library for his friend, Hugo’s concern is great enough to ask Michael Harmuth, the assistant director of the library, to help him into the room. The men are shocked to find Paul dead, and given his history of a heart condition, the cause is understood to be natural.
Something does not sit right with Hugo though and he calls his friend Lieutenant Camille Lerens from the Brigade Criminelle for her assistance. As she has a new recruit, she grudgingly agrees to check out the scene and provide an opportunity for her recruit to test out his sleuthing skills. Although nothing out of the ordinary is found, when a janitor collapses and almost dies the next day in the library, more questions are raised. When another related death occurs, it is apparent that there is much more to the story.
At the same time, old friend Merlyn arrives back on the scene with friend Miki Harrison. Miki is a freelance journalist researching a book about movie star Isabelle Severin. Recently, Severin was admitted to an elderly care facility. At that time, most of her personal papers and past correspondence were donated to the American Library. Severin’s history as an actress is well-known, but rumors have circulated that Severin was also a spy for the Allies during the war and was able to use her star power to pass secrets from the Vichy government to the Americans, the British, and the Resistance. There is even a story that when two Gestapo officers caught her delivering secrets, she killed one of them with his own dagger. Miki is determined to search through the papers and artifacts, and hopefully find the evidence of her involvement and perhaps even the dagger itself.
Hugo becomes embroiled in both the mystery of his friend Paul’s death and the rumors of the Severin collection. When the possibility of a link between the two mysteries leads Hugo down a different path, it becomes clear that the history behind this case is one that the guilty party does not want solved and is actively eliminating threats to its discovery.
This is the sixth book in the Hugo Marston series and it does not disappoint. Hugo is a very likeable character with a true sense of honor and loyalty. He ingratiates himself into the investigations without being pushy or obnoxious, and although other characters may find him a bit annoying, it is never out of malice or arrogance. His naturally perceptive nature enables him to not just observe the evidence and anomalies, but also to piece them together.
This story had Hugo working more closely with Camille Lerens than in some previous books and I really enjoyed the contrast between her hard-fought acceptance as an investigator and Parisian perspective and Hugo’s American inquisitiveness and Southern charm. They really make a formidable pair. Camille has her own secret, but you are going to have to read to find that out.
It was fun to see Merlyn again; she is a free-thinking, yet secretive young woman we were first introduced to in The Button Man. Her youth and rather bohemian lifestyle provide a humorous contrast to Hugo’s more staid demeanor. Hugo’s friend Tom and on/off girlfriend Claudia also make appearances; however, on a much smaller scale.
Pryor is a great storyteller and he pulls the reader in with just enough clues to keep us hooked.
Who might like this book:
I am pleased to have gotten my husband hooked on the Hugo Marston books; he definitely appeals to both male and female readers. I did warn him though that there was one big plus in this story, and one big negative. The plus was a hint at the end about a future story involving Tom and Hugo that digs up something from their past. I love their rather unusual friendship and shared history and can’t wait to read about a past adventure. The negative was that after reading about the American Library in Paris, I now need to go.
You must start at the beginning of the series and read the books in order. Seriously. I won’t talk to you if you don’t.
The Hugo Marston books in order:
The Crypt Thief
The Blood Promise
The Button Man
The Reluctant Matador