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THE DARK EDGE OF NIGHT by Mark Pryor: Book Review

It’s December 2, 1940, six months almost to the day that Paris fell to the Nazis, and Police Inspector Henri Lefort is called into his superior’s office to probe the disappearance of a missing German physician. 

Dr. Viktor Brandt had arrived in Paris a week earlier but hasn’t been seen at the Blériot Hospital for several days. However, before Henri can begin looking into this case he’s handed another, one that at first glance appears to be a burglary gone wrong.  However, when he turns the corpse over, he looks “at what once was the face of a man, … a visage beaten flat, bloody, and utterly unrecognizable.”

That night Henri’s neighbor Mimi comes to him with a request.  Mimi’s full name and title is Princess Marie Bonaparte, and she is Napoleon’s great-grand niece.  She tells him about the disappearance of two physically disabled teenaged boys at the children’s home where she volunteers.

Three people had come to the home a few days earlier and taken the boys away.  They had shown the home’s director some papers that seemed official, but Mimi is disturbed by the occurrence.  Lefort promises to investigate but tells her that it has to take second place to the investigation of the doctor’s disappearance.  Or maybe even third place, given the investigation of the man found in the apartment.

Returning to his first case, arguably the most important one given that it was assigned to him by the Gestapo, Lefort sees Denis Berger, a colleague of the missing physician.  The detective follows Berger to an address all too well-known to the police, One-Two-Two rue de Provence.

After a brief conversation with the owner, Henri opens the door to the room where Berger is visiting one of the brothel’s dominatrixes and finds the doctor strapped to a cross, awaiting the attention of the woman wielding a thin horsewhip.  Eager to continue the whipping he paid for, Berger is adamant that he knows nothing about Brandt’s whereabouts.  Henri believes him.

Then Henri is called to the scene of another death, this one a man whose body was found on the railroad tracks.  Is the corpse is that of the missing German doctor?  Did this man lie down on the tracks, waiting for a train to end his life?  Did he fall, unable to get up?  Or did someone place him there, unconscious, knowing that a train would soon pass over him?

One of the pleasures of reading Mark Pryor’s mysteries is coming across historical figures who were in Paris in the 1940s.  In The Dark Edge of Night we meet, in addition to the princess, CBS News reporter Eric Sevareid and journalist/spy Virginia Hall, who was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross in 1945 for services to the Allies during the War.

Not surprisingly, all four cases–the man murdered in his apartment, the missing German doctor, the corpse on the train tracks, and the boys removed from the Children’s Home–are connected.  Mark Pryor has done a masterful job in bringing occupied Paris to life, and all his characters are believable–the emotions of the French dealing with the invaders in their city as well as the Germans who believe they are on the way to world conquest.

You can read more about the author at this website.

Check out the complete Marilyn’s Mystery Reads at her website.  In addition to book review posts, there are sections featuring Golden OldiesPast Masters and Mistresses, and an About Marilyn column that features her opinions about everything to do with mystery novels.

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