Cover image for Paris in the dark
Title:
Paris in the dark
ISBN:
9780802128379
Personal Author:
Edition:
First Grove Atlantic hardcover edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Mysterious Press, 2018.
Physical Description:
231 pages ; 24 cm.
Summary:
Autumn 1915. World War I is raging across Europe but Woodrow Wilson has kept Americans out of the trenches--though that hasn't stopped young men and women from crossing the Atlantic to volunteer at the front. Christopher "Kit" Cobb, a Chicago reporter with a second job as undercover agent for the U.S. government, is officially in Paris doing a story on American ambulance drivers, but his intelligence handler, James Polk Trask, soon broadens his mission. City-dwelling civilians are meeting death by dynamite in a new string of bombings, and the German-speaking Kit seems just the man to figure out who is behind them--possibly a German operative who has snuck in with the waves of refugees coming in from the provinces and across the border in Belgium. But there are elements in this pursuit that will test Kit Cobb, in all his roles, to the very limits of his principles, wits, and talents for survival.
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Summary

Summary

With Paris in the Dark , Pulitzer Prize winner Robert Olen Butler returns to his lauded Christopher Marlowe Cobb series and proves once again that he can craft "a ripping good yarn" ( Wall Street Journal ) with unmistakably literary underpinnings.

Autumn 1915. World War I is raging across Europe but Woodrow Wilson has kept Americans out of the trenches--though that hasn't stopped young men and women from crossing the Atlantic to volunteer at the front. Christopher "Kit" Cobb, a Chicago reporter with a second job as undercover agent for the U.S. government, is officially in Paris doing a story on American ambulance drivers, but his intelligence handler, James Polk Trask, soon broadens his mission. City-dwelling civilians are meeting death by dynamite in a new string of bombings, and the German-speaking Kit seems just the man to figure out who is behind them--possibly a German operative who has snuck in with the waves of refugees coming in from the provinces and across the border in Belgium. But there are elements in this pursuit that will test Kit Cobb, in all his roles, to the very limits of his principles, wits, and talents for survival.

Fleetly plotted but engaging with political and cultural issues that deeply resonate today, Paris in the Dark is this series' best novel yet.


Author Notes

Robert Olen Butler is a novelist, screenwriter, educator, and short-story writer who grew up in Granite City, Illinois.

Butler served in Vietnam. Following the Vietnam War, Butler began writing. His stories have appeared in The New Yorker, Esquire, The Paris Review, and The Saturday Review, as well as in four annual editions of the Best American Short Stories and six annual editions of New Stories of the South. A collection of his stories, A Good Scent from a Strange Mountain, won the 1993 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. Butler's novels include The Alleys of Eden, Countrymen of Bones, and Sun Dogs. He has received a Guggenheim Fellowship in fiction and a National Endowment for the Arts grant. Butler also won the Richard and Hinda Rosenthal Foundation Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. He teaches creative writing at McNeese State University.

(Bowker Author Biography)


Reviews 3

Publisher's Weekly Review

In Butler's flawed fifth outing for Christopher "Kit" Cobb (after 2014's The Empire of Night), the Chicago newspaperman who doubles as an American spy, investigates a series of seemingly random bombings in Paris in the autumn of 1915. Kit, who's in Paris to write a feature story on American ambulance drivers, suspects the culprits could be among the many refugees flooding into the city to avoid the war in the countryside. Slowly, however, his focus shifts to a different group of saboteurs: American terrorists seeking to coax the U.S. into the conflict. Though Butler effectively captures the social flavor and visuals of WWI-era Paris, thriller readers accustomed to logic and procedure will be frustrated. Kit, for instance, never visits the scene of a bombing or interviews witnesses, and the finale takes place in that old chestnut, the Catacombs, where the bombers have inexplicably holed up to build their next explosive device. Series fans who don't mind melodrama and the sometimes lead-footed tempo will be satisfied. Agent: Warren Frazier, John Hawkins & Assoc. (Sept.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.


Booklist Review

Butler returns to his outstanding historical-mystery series starring Christopher ""Kit"" Marlowe Cobb with WWI in full swing, though still without the participation of the U.S. An American spy posing as a journalist, Cobb is in Paris, ostensibly writing about American ambulance drivers but actually tracking German agents (Cobb's superiors recognize that eventually Woodrow Wilson will be forced to join the fray). When hand-set bombs (rather than those falling from zeppelins) begin exploding in Paris, it's clear that the espionage threat has intensified dramatically. But is it German agents setting the bombs or some form of homegrown terrorist? It's up to Cobb to find out, but along the way he falls into a passionate affair with an American nurse, who worries that her capacity for intimacy with men may have been spoiled by all the broken male bodies victims of the ""random tumble of metal through torsos"" whom she tends every day. There are strong echoes of Hemingway in this relationship its tenderness and its fragility and in the melancholy and sense of tragic inevitability that hangs over the book. Beneath the frame story, this is a surprisingly introspective and quite moving novel about love and war.--Bill Ott Copyright 2018 Booklist


New York Review of Books Review

if I were in jail, George Pelecanos would be on my reading list, right up there with James Lee Burke and Elmore Leonard, who are also favorites of the inmates in THE MAN WHO CAME UPTOWN (Mulholland/Little, Brown, $27). The guys in the general population at the Washington, D.C., jail also go for lady authors, thanks to Anna Kaplan, a roaming librarian the inmates call "Miss Anna." One loyal client, Michael Hudson, emerges from behind bars as a bona fide bibliophile. ("When he read a book, he was not locked up. He was free.") Back on the outside, Michael resolves to continue his reading habit, applying for his first library card, checking out some books and declaring himself "happy." But he owes people, and in this neighborhood promises and paybacks mean something. So when his major debtor needs a getaway driver for a robbery, Michael is his go-to guy. This is the way good people often get corrupted in Pelecanos's novels, paying their dues for favors received. They're also caught when they get greedy - like a private investigator named Phil Ornazian. Phil has a promising assignment tracking down the wild kids from D.C. who crashed a party in Potomac, Md., raped the teenage hostess and stole her mother's $50,000 bracelet. But then he gets tired of working for chump change and thinks he could be a big-time crook. Pelecanos's characters are prone to that kind of mistake, which is what makes them so human and so doomed. This is an author who writes with the steady hand of a man who knows he's driving a cool set of wheels and respects his own mechanical skills. And that reminds us of another thing about a Pelecanos novel: You'll never get lost. His precise descriptions of Washington neighborhoods read as if they were being dictated by someone driving a fast car, maybe a muscle car, something a teenager would look twice at. Or steal. even IN peacetime, Bess Crawford, the intrepid battlefield nurse in Charles Todd's World War I-era mysteries, finds herself in situations as dire as those in any combat zone. "The war had ended, but not the suffering," she reflects, thinking of the wounded veterans now in her care. "No conquering heroes, these men. No victory parades for them." Rather, a 24-hour suicide watch. In A FORGOTTEN PLACE (Morrow, $27.99), Bess travels to a Godforsaken Welsh mining village on the Bristol Channel to check on one such veteran, Capt. Hugh Williams, an amputee racked by anger and despair. There she encounters yet another disaster, a rock slide that buries three cottages and their inhabitants under a wave of stones and mud. Stranded, Bess is put up by the captain and his attractive widowed sister-in-law, only to find herself confronted with the noxious atmosphere of a town that suspects Williams of having murdered his own brother. Lest readers succumb to the thick aura of calamity that clings to this sad story, Todd offers up charming scenes of focal life, including the spring lambing. Things in the village get a bit bloody, but, as far as I can tell, none of the little lambs is murdered. time was, the searches in many mystery novels involved lost or stolen items like emerald necklaces and state secrets. These days, sleuths all seem to be in pursuit of their identities. One such is Jessie Sloane, the neurasthenic heroine of Mary Kubica's WHEN THE LIGHTS GO OUT (Park Row, $26.99), who hasn't been able to sleep for eight days - or is it nine? As she keeps a tense death watch on her mother, Eden, Jessie fears that Eden might die without revealing who Jessie's father was. Eden's own story, told in chapters set 20 years in the past, focuses on her obsessive attempts to have a child and is far more moving than the alternating chapters devoted to her daughter's selfabsorbed quest. "I'm nothing," Eden berates herself, "if not a mother." What will happen when she realizes "I've become an addict really" and that children "are my fix"? CHRISTOPHER (KIT) COBB is an American war correspondent on assignment in France in 1915. In Robert Olen Butler's taut new thriller, PARIS IN THE DARK (Mysterious Press, $26), Kit is researching a feature about American civilians who volunteered to drive ambulances. That's a dangerous job in itself, taking him close to the front lines, but Kit is also a government agent, on the lookout for saboteurs among the ranks of refugees returning to Paris. Kit isn't infallible, wasting all kinds of time following a suspicious gent who turns out to be a betrayed husband in pursuit of his wife and her lover. Yet his adventures ensnare us in that cobwebbed state of mind when even the most innocent exchanges between strangers can acquire an ominous tone. Consider that boy talking about the pigs and chickens on his father's farm: Could he be stockpiling dynamite? Kit is given his orders - "Go find him and quietly kill him" - and sees plenty of action. Best, though, is Butler's feel for the black-andwhite-movie atmospherics of a war zone after hours: It's a thrill to follow Kit to German hangouts like Le Rouge et le Noir, where a password will get you in, but there's no guarantee you'll get out. Marilyn STASIO has covered crime fiction for the Book Review since 1988. Her column appears twice a month.


Excerpts

Excerpts

From off to the west the air cracked. The sound brass-knuckled us and faded away. A bomb. Awful big or very near. All around me the shadows of men had risen up and were retreating into the bar. They had the Zepps in mind. I jumped up too but stepped out onto the pavement of Boulevard Montparnasse. It wasn't Zepps. I'd have heard their engines. And the crack and fade were distinctive. Dynamite. This was a hand-delivered explosive. I looked west. Five hundred yards along the boulevard I could make out a billow of smoke glowing piss-yellow in the dark. I made off in that direction at a swift jog. My footfalls rang loud. As I neared, there were sounds. Battlefield sounds just after an engagement. The silence of ceased weapon fire filled with the afterclap of moaning, of gasping babble. The police were wading into the bomb site now. I took a step off the island and onto the cobbles. My foot nudged something and I stopped again. I looked down. A man's naked arm, severed at the elbow, its hand with palm turned upward, its fingers splayed in the direction of the café, as if it were the master of ceremonies to this production of the Grand Guignol. Mesdames et messieurs, je vous présente la Grande Guerre . The goddamn Great War. Excerpted from Paris in the Dark by Robert Olen Butler All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.