Tuesday, September 09, 2014

The Bookseller by Mark Pryor

First Line: The largest of Notre Dame's bells tolled noon just as Hugo reached the end of the bridge, the brittle air seeming to hold on to the final clang longer than usual.

Hugo Marston, head of security at the U.S. Embassy, enjoys his posting in Paris, and has made friends-- or as much as he can-- with irascible old Max, a well-known bouquiniste (bookstall owner), who can usually find the books Hugo is looking for. When Hugo is forced to stand and watch Max be kidnapped at gunpoint, he is determined to find the elderly man before it is too late. When local police insist there has been no kidnapping, Hugo takes some time off to conduct his own search with the help of his friend, semi-retired CIA agent Tom Green.

When the two men learn more of Max's background, they don't know if he was kidnapped because of the books he sold or because of his past. Then other bouquinistes begin to disappear only for their bodies to be discovered later floating in the Seine. Hugo himself becomes a target, and he's going to have to find some way to convince the police to become involved.

I enjoyed The Bookseller for its window into Parisian life and for the background it provided of the bookstall owners. I've seen so many photographs of the bouquinistes, yet this is the first time I've read anything of their history. It was fascinating.

Unfortunately, the rest of the book wasn't on par with its insights into Paris and one of its institutions. Having deduced what was happening to the booksellers and why very early on, I wondered how long it would take Hugo Marston to put the pieces together. Too long, as it happens. Moreover, Marston himself never really clicked as a main character for me, and neither did his friend Tom Green. Both have promise, but both lacked that indefinable spark that would bring them to life.

Now that I've said all that, I will say that this is a promising debut mystery, and I am more than willing to give the next book in the series a try. 

The Bookseller by Mark Pryor
ISBN:  9781616147099
Seventh Street Books © 2012
eBook, 312 pages

Law Enforcement, #1 Hugo Marston mystery
Rating: C+
Source: Purchased from Amazon.


  1. Cathy - I'm sorry this one didn't live up to its promise, so to speak. I love the Paris setting, and of course, if there's a bookshop involved, I'm interested. I really do appreciate your honest comments on books...

    1. Thanks, Margot. I know of several book bloggers who won't post reviews of books they didn't care for, and there's nothing wrong with that, *but* if you don't know that this is the blogger's policy and all you see from them are glowing reviews, it's easy to begin wondering about the veracity of those reviews.

      The vast majority of books that I read and review I do like-- but not all of them. And as for the few that I start and cannot finish, I'll say a few words about them on my blog's Facebook page.

  2. It is not a bad thing to write an initial book that nails it on the setting but needs work in other areas. The author knows what to address in the next attempt. Too bad the editor didn't have the same insight. And of course, all readers don't react the same way to a book.

    1. Isn't that the truth! Several times I've read someone else's review of a book and wondered if we'd read the same book!


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