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Sunday, January 05, 2014

The Bookseller (Hugo Marston) by Mark Pryor | LibraryThing

The Bookseller (Hugo Marston) by Mark Pryor | LibraryThing:

Fine read.  Hugo Marston is an ex FBI agent, now living in Paris as chief of security for the U.S. Embassy.   Recently divorced from his second wife (his first wife was killed in a car crash) he shared a love of rare books with her and had developed a friendship with Max, owner of one of the  bouquinistes ,  along the Seine.        

He returns one afternoon after having bought a couple of first editions and witnesses Max being forced, at the point of a gun, on the a boat. When interviewed by the police, some of the bystanders insist that Max had gone willingly.  The next day Max's stall has been taken over by someone who claims not to know Max. Hugo, having a couple weeks off, and an ex-cop, decides to check things out.  He is soon joined by his old friend, Tom, a semi-retired CIA operative. 

What makes this book special is less the mystery, although that's good, too, but rather the surroundings, the flavor of Paris and the little historical bits that some readers objected to,  those who must have at least twelve gunshots on each page.  I love informative paragraphs like  

 The term bouquinistes came from the Dutch word boeckin, meaning “small book.” Made sense. The first sellers, he read, used wheelbarrows to transport and sell their goods, and fastened trays to the parapets of the bridges with thin leather straps. After the French Revolution, business boomed when entire libraries were “liberated” from nobles and wound up for sale cheap on the banks of the Seine. In 1891, bouquinistes received permission to permanently attach their boxes to the quaysides. Hugo was struck by the line: “Today, the waiting list to become one of Paris's 250 bouquinistes is eight years.”</i> 

But what are we to make of Claudia and her gay father, a rich count, who, when he learns Hugo and Claudia are seeing each other tries to set him up with one of his attractive American employees?  And what was his relationship to Gervais the chief of the bouquiniste union, the SBP?  In the end, the book is a nice melange of spies, WW II collaborators, drug smugglers, murder, bad cops, microdots, a Holmesian suicide, and a shoot-out.    

I downgraded it a bit because Gervois just didn’t seem that believable to me.

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