Posts Tagged With: Paris

Rue De La Pompe by James Earle McCracken

This book is described as a satiric urban fantasy, which is pretty accurate!  It’s also very original and a whole lot of fun.

The novels starts on the 30th birthday of everyman Michael Whyte, an American living in Paris, who is not sure how he has found himself there, and is doing a job which is never fully explained (either to Michael or the reader).

Longing for a bit of excitement in his life, Michael soon learns that you should be careful what you wish for.  On what he thought was going to be just another ordinary, forgettable birthday, Michael receives a tuxedo from an unknown benefactor, and an invitation to a party at his eccentric (to say the least) neighbours’ apartment.

Michael soon finds himself on a quest which takes him through a Paris which will be completely unfamiliar to anyone who has ever visited the city.  His task is to find the very first French franc coin.  Along his journey, he is aided by a deaf mute, an friendly epistomologist and a beautiful but enigmatic French lady.  He find himself involved in ten day long feasts, pursued by a crazy concierge, meeting flatulent statues and talking sculptures, and facing danger almost wherever he turns.  Michael also has a running inner monologue (voiced by several facets of his personality), which is very amusing.

If you don’t like fantasy, I would not recommend this book.  But if it’s a genre that you enjoy, I would strongly recommend it.  I laughed out loud on several occasions, and will definitely look out for further works by this author (this is his debut novel, but hopefully it won’t be long until he writes another).

The only thing that I found a little bit of a let down was the downbeat ending, which did not seem to resonate with the tone of the rest of the book.  However, all in all this was a very very good read.

Published by: iUniverse (

ISBN: 9780595485055

Price: (12th Oct 2008) £9.00 paperback, £14.00 hardback (

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The Black Tower by Louis Bayard


Restoration Paris, 1818. It has been over twenty years since the Revolution, Napoleon is in exile and the Bourbon kings are back on the throne of France. But the past still echoes…
Hector Carpentier is an ordinary medical student living at home with his mother, where she takes in boarders to help make ends meet. He is suddenly thrust into a murder investigation when detective Eugene Francois Vidocq turns up on his doorstep. It seems Hector’s name has been found on a piece of paper that was concealed on a dead body. Hector has never seen or heard of the victim before. He is at a loss to explain why the man might have had his name and been at pains to hide it.
Before he knows what’s happening, he is swept along with Vidocq and into a case that has the potential to shake France to its core. The evidence points to a conspiracy to kill a simple, quiet young man who lives in the country and who just might be the heir to the throne of France, Louis-Charles.
During the Revolution, Marie Antoinette and Louis XVI were both killed. Their two children, Marie-Therese-Charlotte and Louis-Charles were imprisoned in the Black Tower. Marie was eventually released but Louis-Charles died in prison. Or did he? The rumors have always circulated that he might have escaped and impostors have turned up before. But this young man has no memory of his early life and does not claim to be the lost prince. Someone believes he is, though, and they are intent on his death. It is up to Vidocq and Hector to unravel the mystery and protect the unassuming, fragile young man.
Louis Bayard paints a fascinating picture of the little-known real life detective, Vidocq. The world’s first real police detective, he had a background in crime and had been imprisoned in his youth. He knew the criminal mind from personal experience and was able to use his knowledge to become an extremely successful detective. To me he seemed to be a cross between Sherlock Holmes and Columbo because of his flair for disguise and his gruff demeanor. Restoration Paris is likewise brought to life brilliantly. This book is a wonderful historical adventure.
The Black Tower is published by William Morrow. ISBN 978-0-06-117350-9
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The Phantom of the Opera by Gaston Leroux

Synopsis (from back of book):
As Monsiers Richard and Moncharmin prepare to take over as acting managers of the Opera House, they discover their predecessors have bequeathed them the “Opera Ghost”. A seperate memorandum-book has been set aside for his various whims, including extravagant financial needs. Heedless of the numerous warnings to comply with these strange demands, the managers shrug it all off as a practical joke taken too far. Then a sequence of eerie coincidences and tragic events follow, culminating in the sudden disappearance of the beautiful prima donna Christine Daae in mid-performance.

Tortured by the pangs of unrequited love, the mysterious figure living beneath the Opera Hose has been awaiting his chance to strike – and once he does, he is deadly…

Somehow I was expecting a little more from this novel, having seen several film adaptations (including the very famous musical), none of which have been completely true to the original story (although some have been closer than others).

At the start, it is presented almost in the style of a factual report, with the author relating events allegedly as told to him by those who were there, gathering information from various sources, including diaries, letters and anecdotal evidence, and indeed, parts of it are based on fact (the Opéra de Paris, for example, does exist as described, as does the subterranean lake; and on one tragic occasion, one of the counterweights for the magnificent chandelier fell, killing one), but the flights of fantasy as the story develops becomes wilder and wilder.

The Phantom himself is presented as a tragic-comic figure. His despair and loneliness inspire pity, but many of his escapades (such as the “joke” with the money) make him seem faintly ridiculous. There’s also the psychotic nature which is, apparently, completely due to his being hideously ugly, which seems just a trifle far-fetched. As does Christine’s relationship with him – one of attraction/repulsion – as there are several occasions where one cannot honestly be expected that any woman, no matter how gullible, would let herself be entrapped in such a way when there is very clearly more than one way out.

Ultimately, though, the opulent splendour of the tale and its setting redeems it and lifts it out of the murky depths. There are moments of absolute genius (mostly the descriptions of the Opéra de Paris) which make this a very worthwhile novel to read and one that perhaps should be read by anyone who loves a Gothic touch.

Reviewed by Kell Smurthwaite

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