Tuesday, 15 September 2020
MARK PRYOR - THE FRENCH WIDOW (2020)
A young American woman is attacked at an historic Paris chateau and four paintings are stolen the same night, drawing Hugo Marston into a case where everyone seems like a suspect. To solve this mystery Hugo must crack the secrets of the icy and arrogant Lambourd family, who seem more interested in protecting their good name than future victims. Just as Hugo thinks he’s close, some of the paintings mysteriously reappear, at the very same time that one of his suspects goes missing.
While under pressure to catch a killer, Hugo also has to face the consequences of an act some see as heroic, but others believe might have been staged for self-serving reasons. This puts Hugo under a media and police spotlight he doesn’t want, and helps the killer he’s hunting mark him as the next target….
It's been a few years since I read one of Mark Pryor's Hugo Marston Paris set books and having enjoyed the ones I have read previously, I had quite high hopes for the latest in the series. It didn't disappoint. Marston is head of security at the American Embassy in Paris. He has some props as an investigator and solver of crimes.
Having previously asserted a preference for stories featuring criminal sorts and lawbreakers, when I do choose to read crime solving mysteries, I like books where there are multiple crimes to solve, in this case two. I think it spreads the focus of the book and helps maintain my interest rather than having a narrow concentration on one event, which can on occasions bore me.
An American woman is attacked at work and some paintings are stolen and in another incident Hugo shoots dead a killer after he encounters the deranged gunman on a murderous rampage in a Parisian park. The second incident attracts the furore of the press once some details of the gunman emerge and Hugo becomes the centre of some unwanted scrutiny. In the first mentioned event, Hugo manages to attract the ire of the wealthy Lambourd family, the apparent victims of the art theft. There's very often something about rich families in fiction where they are often portrayed as heartless, domineering, controlling, arrogant and insensitive. No exceptions here. They usually have more than a few skeletons in the closet - and again no exceptions here.
I liked the dual investigations, the main character - Hugo (though he can be slightly annoying in a supercilious Sherlock Holmes sort of way. There's a smidgeon of smugness he portrays when he figures everything out but holds onto that information before he does a big reveal). I do like his interactions with the support cast here; his ex-CIA mate Tom, the American ambassador, his journalist-cum-non exclusive girlfriend, Claudia and his main liaison in the French police, the sex-changed and necessarily thick-skinned Camille Lerens. He works well with them all. There's plenty of respect for each other along with a healthy dose of teasing and humour in these relationships.
Decent setting, and an interesting investigation mainly focussing on an uber-dysfunctional family, not many of whom are worthy of any great understanding or sympathy. It's hard to like people who don't especially seem to like themselves or each other. Looking down their noses at the little people doesn't quite endear them to me either. The matriarch in particular is odious.
Overall an enjoyable return to Paris, Hugo Marston and author, Mark Pryor.
4 from 5
Mark Pryor has been read before - The Bookseller (2012), The Crypt Thief (2013), The Blood Promise (2014) and The Button Man (2014)
Read - September, 2020
Published - 2020
Page count - 299
Source - review copy from publisher Seventh Street Books
Format - PDF read on laptop