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The Paris Enigma: A Novel [Hardcover]

Pablo De Santis


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Book Description

Nov. 4 2008

In the tradition of Caleb Carr's The Alienist and Eric Larsen's The Devil in the White City comes a gripping tale of murder and the art of crime solving, atmospherically set during the 1889 Paris World's Fair.

It is 1889, and the entire world breathlessly anticipates the Paris World's Fair and the opening of Monsieur Eiffel's iconic tower. The Twelve Detectives—a society of the twelve most famous, compelling, and dazzling detectives from around the world—have been asked to discuss the secrets of their trade as part of the fair's lineup of events. The Twelve travel to Paris to convene as a single body for the first time, but also, if some whispers are to be believed, to debate the very philosophy that underlies their pursuit of the world's most wanted criminals.

But one detective is conspicuously absent: the legendary founding member of The Twelve, Renato Craig, will not attend. In his place he sends his novice assistant, Sigmundo Salvatrio—son of a shoemaker, a lifelong detective-arts devotee, and the only remaining student of Craig's famed Academy for Detectives in Buenos Aires. Salvatrio arrives in Paris, carrying a secret message meant only for Craig's best friend and cofounder of The Twelve, the brilliant, brooding, and fiercely competitive Viktor Arzaky.

When a member of The Twelve is discovered dead at the foot of the gleaming Eiffel Tower, the first in what turns into a series of grisly murders, Arzaky and Salvatrio find themselves in a race against time around glorious fin de siècle Paris, encountering all manner of secret societies, solving philosophical puzzles, while also trying to save a dangerously beautiful woman.

The pair soon realizes that the stakes involved are unimaginably high; they must not only catch the stalking murderer but also alter the fate of their precious brotherhood.

Written in a strikingly original voice, and poignantly evoking a world about to lose its innocence forever, The Paris Enigma opens a window onto crime solving's early days, when wit, common sense, and intelligence were the only tools a detective could rely on.


Product Details

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Harper; 1st Edition edition (Nov. 4 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0061479675
  • ISBN-13: 978-0061479670
  • Product Dimensions: 23.6 x 16 x 2.4 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 476 g
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #1,640,464 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

“Luminous...a tightly spun thriller...Mr. De Santis effortlessly incorporates important historical events (the building of the tower and the World’s Fair) into his narrative, as well as capturing the turn-of-the-century uneasiness over the emergence of the machine age.” (Wall Street Journal)

“[An] outstanding puzzler. . . . De Santis adroitly explores such issues as the difference between image and reality while providing intelligent and entertaining discussions of alternate approaches to detection.” (Publishers Weekly (starred review))

“[A] beguiling historical whodunit . .. .” (New York Times Book Review)

From the Back Cover

In the tradition of The Alienist and The Devil in the White City comes a gripping, atmospheric tale of murder and the art of crime solving.

Paris, 1889: in anticipation of the World's Fair and the opening of Monsieur Eiffel's tower, a society of the world's most famous detectives convenes as a single body for the very first time. Sent in place of a conspicuously absent Renato Craig, founding member of The Twelve, his novice assistant Sigmundo Salvatrio arrives, bearing a secret message for the brilliant, brooding Viktor Arzaky, Craig's best friend and the society's cofounder. When one of The Twelve is discovered murdered at the Tower's base—the first in a series of grisly slayings—it falls to Arzaky and Salvatrio, the last remaining student of Craig's famed Academy for Detectives in Buenos Aires, to find and stop the killer. But what the two discover as they race around fin-de-siècle Paris—encountering secret societies, philosophical puzzles, and an imperiled, dangerously beautiful woman—has shattering consequences that will alter the fate of their precious brotherhood forever.

--This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 3.3 out of 5 stars  14 reviews
12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good writing Nov. 18 2008
By Nicole Del Sesto - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
I debated whether to give this book a 3 or a 4, but in the end I liked it well enough so I went with the 4. Had I the option, I guess it would have gotten a 3.5.

Part of the problem was that the book description doesn't really describe the book, so my expectations weren't met. The only similarity to The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair that Changed America, a book I loved, was the World's Fair. The Paris Engima lacked the rich detail and history. The description promised a "series" of grisly murders, of which there were only two, and only one "grisly". Etc.

I liked the writing, and the main character, and when the story was being told the book was quite good and compelling. The problem was that there were numerous case vignettes put forth by the "Twelve Detectives" which had no bearing on the story and actually detracted from it. If the book had just told the one story, it would have been a really good novella, but a lot of what was there felt like filler, or the author wanting to put all his murder mystery ideas into one place.

Glad I read it, but I wouldn't rush out to read more of the same.
9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Shadows lurking in the City of Lights Nov. 20 2008
By Zoyd - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
The witty cover of this book caught my eye when I was looking through the new releases on amazon the other day. I'm very happy I let myself be seduced by it because THE PARIS ENIGMA - the first novel to be published in English by what I understand is a young writer who's already acclaimed in his native Argentina - is quite brilliant. First of all, the setting: the Paris of 1889 that de Santis evokes is wonderfully gothic and mysterious, on the cusp of the modern age, but still full of the darkness of an earlier, less scientific, age. (The unfinished Eiffel Tower is the central symbol for this in-between state.) And then the plot: a serial killer investigation like none other you'll have come across, conducted by a cabal of the world's greatest detectives (aka The Twelve Detectives) and the novel's hero and narrator, the young assistant to one of them. It's simply a superb historical mystery, but it doesn't stop there - if you want, you can also read THE PARIS ENIGMA as a philosophical investigation into the nature of good and evil, of crime and punishment. Perfect reading for a cold winter's day!
12 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars superb historical mystery Nov. 11 2008
By Harriet Klausner - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
In 1889 Paris hosts the World's Fair. There twelve of the greatest detectives from around the globe meet for the first time. Make that eleven as the twelfth Sigmundo Salvatrio is representing his employer Renaldo Craig who is ill and unable to attend besides being tied up with two murders back home. Two of the investigators Louis Darbon and Polish immigrant Viktor Arkazy claim to be the Detective of Paris. However, their heated rivalry for the honor of top Paris sleuth ends when Darbon falls from the Eiffel Tower just before the gala begins.

Arkazy agrees to train Argentine Sigmundo Salvatrio on detecting although his student is Craig's assistant. They work on solving Darbon's homicide, as the Polish expatriate fears more of the international alliance of Twelve Detectives will be targeted by an unknown adversary especially when a preserved corpse is burned.

Told by the intelligent yet lacking confidence Sigmundo Salvatrio, THE PARIS ENIGMA is a superb historical mystery that uses late nineteenth century Paris (starting with the still not quite finished Eiffel Tower) as the backdrop to an entertaining whodunit. The story line is driven by The Twelve Detectives, whose competition for top gun turns nasty as superegos explode. Fans will enjoy the dysfunctional exploits of the world's greatest detectives struggling to solve THE PARIS ENIGMA with each wanting to be the one acclaimed as the best.

Harriet Klausner
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Not up to par Jan. 29 2011
By palestrina7 - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I gave this author a good review for his Voltaire's Calligrapher. I really enjoyed it, so I bought this larger tome. Wow. Not enjoyable, not a good read. There is really no plot going on here, just endless small scenes that are so similar that the whole thing just disintegrated in my mind to a grey mush of meaningless meandering, never quite getting to the point of being interesting, or of even moving the plot along. It's always a bad sign when the reader DOESN'T CARE who killed the victim. I got to that point halfway through.
2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Don't read it looking for Agatha Christie March 24 2009
By Owl in a Pine - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
What a wonderful, fascinating book! This is one of those books that can be enjoyed as a piece of genre writing or as a more philosophical investigation of an anxious historical period of transition.

The main character is a young man, sent by his famous detective mentor to the Paris World's Fair in 1889 to attend the meeting of the 12 Detectives. The 12 Detectives are the World's Greatest Detectives, embodying every detective stereotype (e.g. an all-action American Pinkerton with his silent, but all-noticing Sioux assistant, a British detective who reminded me strongly of Sherlock Holmes). They are all about solving perfect crimes, such as their prized locked-door murders, using scientific methods. Meanwhile, the World's Fair, and the Eiffel Tower in particular, are celebrating a brave new world where science and reason dominate.

Ultimately, the success of the 12 Detectives' scientific methods is dependent on the criminal. Without rationality behind the crime, the motives of a killer are opaque and untraceable, meaning that the unglamorous, disdained "crimes of passion" are more intractable than the classic "plotted" murders. What is the new human condition at the dawn of the 20th century, and are the methods of the 12 Detectives appropriate to solving its crimes? And more fundamentally: what does enigma provide that rationality cannot?

This book is well-written, quickly paced, full of delightful detective anecdotes told by colorful characters. He packs all of this into less than 250 pages with short chapters (2-5 pages). Yet, if you are looking for a classic whodunit, you might be disappointed. I was pretty sure I knew who the murderer was and I was right. The solution wasn't an astonishing Agatha Christie-type reveal. But if you enjoyed Caleb Carr or In the Name of the Rose then you should enjoy this memorable story.
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