Aug 29, 2009

Book Review: Paris City of Night by David Downie

Paris City of Night Paris City of Night by David Downie

My rating: 3.75 of 5 stars

Paris is known as the City of Lights but in this novel of suspense, Paris City of Night, journalist and travel writer David Downie shows us a seamier and more sinister side of the famous city where he lives and writes.

There are police everywhere in the city because of the constant threat of terrorism, many of the buildings are old, dusty, and fragile, and the troubling past is ever present.

Plot: The novel begins with an image of the past, 1950, with George Henri in a photography darkroom working to develop a picture of a man with round glasses in a raincoat and panama hat, leaning on the deck of a ship. We find out the man is Adolf Eichmann leaving France by boat for Buenos Aires.

Shift to Paris in 2007 and the image of an old woman in her 90s, having delusions, nightmares, and reliving the past fitfully. We find out she is Madeleine de Lafayette, a Resistance fighter in her youth during the war, and "a key player in the misguided Allied effort to fight Communism by smuggling Nazis to freedom." ( publisher's description).

Her protege, photographer Jay Grant returns from a trip and finds Madeleine has died and an item in her photo collection sold at auction. A daguerreotype he had made some years back was sold for an outrageous price, given it was a forgery. Frantic to recover it and others, to keep out of jail, Jay goes about tracing the unknown seller of the item. This begins a long and strange journey where his life is often in danger, several people are murdered, and secrets are revealed about his father "the spook", about Madeleine, and about the use of daguerreotypes to send encrypted messages during the war.

Comments: The plot is complex, changes direction midstream, and takes you to a different ending than the one you imagined. I would have preferred less detail about the history of photography, encryption, and daguerreotype. For a mystery novel, the amount of information was a bit overwhelming and I was sometimes impatient for the story to move from one scene to another.

Overall though, the book has a very good plot with a lot of fast action, chase scenes, and twists in the plot. There are excellent characterizations and descriptions of time and place to create a background atmosphere. In other words, I came away with a good sense of Paris as the City of Night.

Book received from the author for review.
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  1. Sounds interesting but I'm not sure if it is something that I would read or not. I am drawn to historical fiction so I'm sure that I would find something in this one. Thanks for the great review!

  2. Staci: It is worth reading. I just got a tad impatient that the plot wasn't moving along faster because of the details on photography, but those are interesting in themselves.

  3. I like the way this sounds! Thanks for the review!

  4. It does look good, but I probably wouldn't appreciate too much detail about photography either. I'll have to consider this one. Great review!


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