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Book Author: Mark Pryor

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.

DIE AROUND SUNDOWN by Mark Pryor: Book Review

Paris in 1940 is on edge.  German troops have moved into the city, and Nazi soldiers and Nazi banners are everywhere.  Henri Lefort, a police detective, is sent to the home of Princess Marie Bonaparte to investigate a robbery; when he arrives he’s told it’s a triple murder, that in the course of the robbery three Bonaparte servants were killed.

Henri impresses the Princess, she insists that he investigate the murders, and through her influence he is transferred to the murder squad from the robbery division.  However, the next day Henri is given a different assignment.  The case that he’s assigned to is not investigating the murders in the Bonaparte mansion but rather the murder of a German officer in the Louvre.  And, because Hitler will be visiting Paris in a week, the German army officers who give him the assignment insist that Henri find the murderer before then, or else.

In addition to the quick solution to the crime that the Nazis insist on, there are other strange happenings.  Although the killing took place in the Louvre, Henri is not allowed into the museum to look at the scene of the crime.  Also, the victim’s body has been moved to a jail cell in police headquarters rather than left where he died.  Henri has his suspicions about the entire investigation, but he has no power to proceed the way he’d like.  And the clock is ticking.

When Henri returns home to the apartment that he and Nicola, a secretary at the police station, share, he finds her deep in conversation with the Princess.  Marie Bonaparte’s home is about to be requisitioned by the invaders, and Nicola impulsively tells her about a vacant apartment in their building.  The Princess, who asks to be called Mimi, proposes a trade.

She will take the apartment and bring wine and food to Henri and Nicola if Henri will agree to talk with her for an hour every evening.  During their brief interview at her home, she realized that he suffers from misophonia, or extreme sensitivity to pattern based sounds, such as someone chewing gum, repeatedly tapping a pencil, snapping their fingers, etc.  Mimi was a patient and then a colleague of Sigmund Freud, and she believes there’s a deeper issue than simple sensitivity to these noises.  Henri reluctantly agrees, partly because of curiosity and partly at Nicola’s urging.

Much of the novel deals with Henri’s service during the first world war and the issues that followed from that.  In addition to dealing with the murder inquiry and Mimi’s probing questions, Henri is being followed by a persistent reporter who knows some disturbing facts about his life, facts that Henri is determined to keep secret.

Die Around Sundown is an outstanding debut from the author of the Hugo Marston series.  The beauty of the Parisian setting and the fear of its citizens of the Nazis are in stark contrast to each other and make the novel taut and suspenseful.  And Henri Lefort is a fascinating protagonist, a man with a history he’s determined to keep private.

You can read more about Mark Pryor 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.