Mark Pryor, The Book Artist
© 2019 Mary Pryor
Seventh Street Books
The main character in this series is Hugo Marston, the head of security at the US Embassy in Paris, although most of what transpires in the books (of which this is the 8th) is not related to his official position. I
n this entry, the Ambassador has asked (i.e., ordered) him to attend the opening of a sculpture exhibit at the Dali Gallery in Montmartre, as a sort of chaperone for the artist, Alia Alsafar. He’s reluctant, but his reluctance diminishes when he learns that her sculpture is made from books—Marston is a book freak; the fact that the ambassador refers to her as strikingly beautiful doesn’t hurt.
And the woman who has been his companion for a while now, Claudia (whose last name I can’t find) is training for a marathon, and her run takes her past the Dali that evening—and she collapses and is taken to a hospital in an ambulance.. At about the same time, someone kills Alsafar. The police inspector in charge of the investigation soon arrests Claudia—her DNA has been found on Alsafar’s body, and Claudia claims never to have met her. Hugo, or course, butts into the investigation.
Meanwhile, a murder (Rick Hofer), who has recently been released from prison, is out to get Hugo and his good friend (and CIA spook) Tom Green. Tom is in Amsterdam, on Hofer’s trail, and Hugo is, of course, torn between his desire to clear Claudia and Tom’s likely confrontation with Hofer.
I suppose it’s not really a spoiler to say that Hugo clears Claudia and helps Tom take care of the Hofer issue.
I’ve been a fan of this series since I read the first one (The Bookseller, 2012, but I’m less enthusiastic about this one. Having Marston deal with the threat to Claudia’s freedom and the risk that Tom is taking in going after Hofer was probably necessary to get the book out to book-length, but it seemed to me to fragment things a bit too much. And, in both threads, the climaxes were not particularly satisfying. The interrogation—handled by Hugo, with the cop mostly just sitting in—seemed perfunctory and the murderer’s confession seemed mostly a matter of needing to wrap things up. And the final confrontation with Hofer also felt almost perfunctory.
The Book Artist was, for me, just good enough to have warranted my time, but not good enough to keep me from putting it down after reading for a while. I’ll continue to buy Pryor’s books, but I also hope things pick up in the next installment.