Murder on the Eiffel Tower
By Claude Izner*
Published: Gallic Books, 2007
Oooh, a book all about a crime-solving Parisian bookseller. As a Francophile who once sold antiquarian books, I was probably predisposed to like this one, but even I didn't expect to enjoy it as much as I did.
The brand new Eiffel Tower, standing 300 metres high, towers above the many pavilions of the fourth Paris Universal Exposition, which opened on 6th May 1889. People are flocking to it in their droves, eager to sign the visitors' Golden Book and to visit the Le Figaro Pavilion on the second platform to collect their personalised copy of the special edition of the newspaper. Among them is Eugénie Patinot who, one sunny afternoon in June, in the company of her niece and two nephews, collapses on the second platform of the tower and dies.
Also on the tower is Monsieur Victor Legris, Parisian bookseller and photographer, who is there to meet Marius Bonnet, a friend who wants him to contribute a column to the newspaper he has just started - Le Passe-partout. The police are satisfied that Eugénie Patinot has died as the result of being stung by a bee, but Victor and his newspaper friends are not so convinced and, as the death count subsequently rises, the bookseller-turned-amateur-sleuth finds himself searching for clues all over Paris in a bid to uncover the truth and identify the man or woman responsible for what he comes to believe are murders.
The period is conjured up wonderfully. From the moment I began reading, I felt I had been transported back in time to the cobbled streets of nineteenth century Paris in the middle of summer; its heady air filled with the smell of honeysuckle and horse dung and the overwhelming buzz of excitement of thousands of men, women and children as they flocked to climb the towering iron structure and visit the numerous pavilions, with their displays of cameras, printing machines, anatomical mouldings, and curiosities from all over the world.
I did manage to solve the case before Victor, using the snippets of information included strategically throughout the book that the bookseller seems to miss as a result of being too closely involved with the case. Victor's anxiety, as he pursues his suspects and manages to get things completely wrong a number of times, pushes the story along at quite a pace, and consistently so; I found it very difficult to put the book down as I was so eager to find out what was going to happen next, and there was no part of the book that allowed for a brief respite.
This one left me wanting to hop on a flight to Paris the moment I put it down, to climb the Eiffel Tower, and sit in a café sipping something cold before rummaging amongst the dusty tomes of the city's second-hand bookshops. It also left me wanting to read the next in the series as soon as possible.
A very enjoyable read that I just couldn't put down, so I'm giving it five lovely chocolate stars out of five.
*The writer, Claude Izner, is actually two sisters by the names of Liliane Korb and Laurence Lefèvre, who are both Parisian booksellers.
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