A search for a wayward daughter in 1927 Paris leads to an investigation into a series of murders in Mears’ (Chasing Dietrich, 2011) latest mystery featuring Pinkerton detective Michael Temple.
Temple has an assignment in Paris that seems like a walk in the park: deliver a father’s letter and bring Anne Johnson home to Ohio. The detective has trouble finding her, but he meets plenty of other people along the way. The novel has a slow, deliberate build, with Temple leisurely hunting in Parisian cafes and having a romance in Luxembourg with Anne’s friend and British doppelganger, Jane. But what appears to be a tour of Europe escalates into a powerhouse whodunit on a grand scale. Temple is framed for murder, roughed up and tossed in jail repeatedly; as soon as he seems cleared of one crime, another body is found. Temple searches for the truth to clear his name in a time of communists, cons and killers. The story’s historical backdrop is richly textured: Temple is a veteran who’d only previously been to Paris during the war; there’s a strong Russian communist presence in the city; and Ernest Hemingway’s missing papers and a letter by Lenin become central to the plot. (The detective even questions Hemingway’s ex-wife, Hadley, who has to explain a Freud reference to him.) The fine-tuned dialogue is a particular highlight, from a rotund writer’s hilarious speech, interspersed with wheezing and throat clearing, to Temple’s comment that he returned home after a night of drinking “early by Paris standards, and drunk by anyone’s standards.” But the book’s most engaging quality is Temple’s adamant refusal to quit; when the police believe they’ve found the solution, all the detective sees are loose ends—which he attacks fervently. In scenes that bookend the novel, an 89-year-old Temple travels to Paris, still wanting answers to questions that are more than half a century old.
A solid historical detective story with a tenacious detective, unanticipated twists and an ample supply of suspects.