The dark side of Jazz Age Paris.
Harris Stuyvesant didn’t think any more of Philippa Crosby than of most of the young women he bedded. Their five-day fling certainly wasn’t long enough to count as an affair. So when Pip goes missing and her uncle Ernest, knowing of Stuyvesant’s past experience with the FBI, asks him to find her, the man’s in an awkward position. Already nagged with guilt over his failure to protect his former lover Sarah Grey from criminal horrors three years ago (Touchstone, 2008), he takes the case and proceeds to make inquiries, beginning with Pip’s tearful Southern California roommate, Nancy Berger. In no time at all, Stuyvesant is up to his spats in period detail, celebrity walk-ons (Sylvia Beach, Bricktop, Cole Porter) and distinctly kinky intimations. Pip’s acquaintance with artist/provocateur Man Ray, who photographed her in a highly suggestive pose, is only the tip of the iceberg. Sarah’s boss, Comte Dominic de Charmentier, is intimately connected with the “death pornography” of the scandalous theatrical productions that made the Grand-Guignol a trademark for grotesquerie. King presents Stuyvesant’s tour of the lower depths of the Parisian avant-garde in terms both decorous and creepy. By the time Sarah and her brother Bennett, a human lie detector who retired from working with Stuyvesant to a Dorset farm, return to his life, his suspicion that Pip’s was only one of a long line of disappearances has made him a changed man who has to admit that “the odors of life are not always pleasant”—even in 1929 Paris.
Evocative period detail and challenging aesthetic adventures compensate for a mystery more suggestive than believable and a climactic sequence that seems to have been lifted from King’s last tale of Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes (Garment of Shadows, 2012).