The excitement of the 1889 World Exposition is muted, then intensified, by murder.
With Paris abuzz over the debut of Gustave Eiffel’s magnificent tower, the death of a rag-and-bone man at a parade for Buffalo Bill’s visiting troupe merits little attention. Weeks after the fatality is ascribed to a bee sting, maiden aunt Eugénie Patinot succumbs to a similar fate during the world expo for which the Tower serves as an entrance arch. Nearby, bookseller Victor Legris meets his dogged journalist friend Marius Bonnet to celebrate the latter’s newspaper, Le Passe-partout. Also in attendance are Victor’s mysterious business partner Kenji Mori and Russian émigré Tasha Kherson, who works as Bonnet’s illustrator. Romantic sparks flash between Victor and Tasha even before Bonnet publishes an anonymous note suggesting that Eugénie was murdered. When another “bee sting” death occurs outside the Colonial Palace, Victor’s insatiable curiosity turns him into an amateur sleuth who juggles clues about the crimes, a budding affair with Tasha, elbow-rubbing with celebrities like Anatole France and an attempt to prove, at least to himself, that his friend Mori is not the killer.
In this series kickoff from Izner (pseudonym for a pair of collaborating sisters), the energetic curiosity of the hero dovetails nicely with readers’ interest in a fascinating era. The colorful supporting cast lays a solid foundation for Victor’s further exploits.