” The seems like a stretch. To go from two random killings, maybe some bone snatching, to a serial killer? ” (Ch.13, p.72)
Hugo Marston Mystery #2
The Crypt Thief is the second book of the Hugo Marston series. Hugo is the head of security at the U.S. Embassy in Paris. During the course of his investigations into a mysterious double-murder at the popular tourist destination, the Père Lachaise Cemetery, Hugo becomes convinced that the murder may be just one in a sequence of escalating murders. Like the previous book, his is at times helped, but sometimes hindered, by his friend Tom Green, who is associated with the CIA, and Paris police Capitaine Raul Garcia, and the inquiring journalist Claudia de Rousillon.
As he walked, he congratulated himself. He’d seen Al Zakiri by chance, a by-product of his plan, and after seeing the US Embassy’s press release he’d made the easy connection to Marston. (Ch.28, p.167)
The book maintains a quick enough pace, but the whole premise is outlandish. Near Jim Morrison’s grave in Père Lachaise, someone kills the son of an American senator and a young Egyptian woman who actually entered the country with a fake passport. It is later discovered that she’s friends with a Pakistani terrorist, Al Zakiri, who wants to escape the violent extremism of his home and start new life in Paris. The association of Al Zakiri with this young woman provokes the senator to believe no doubt the terrorist is the killer. But Hugo believes the real killer, who also makes off with half the bones of an once-famous dancer at Moulin Rouge, is on a personal mission of which the purpose is not known. Hugo cracks the secrets of the graveyard, but soon realizes that old bones aren’t all this serial killer wants: his ultimate plan requires the flesh and organs of the living.
He didn’t know who’d done the tattoos but he’d spent a year finding ones like them, a task that had been easier than he’d imagined. Everyone had them nowadays and, oh, people just loved to show them off. A few hours prowling, watching from doorways and the grubbier cafes had shown him that. And then a few more hours on the Internet, scrolling through pages and pages of Paris call girls all too eager to display themselves to strangers. And he found what he needed; not perfection, not that, but women with tattoos that he could take with his knife. (Ch.23, p.136)
Unlike the first book, The Bookseller, this one doesn’t give a very strong impression of Paris, which is the very element that first attracted me to the series. The Crypt Thief would have been a more engaging read if Pryor had included more Paris history. Jane Auril, La Goulue, and the Moulin Rouge are alluded to as being central to the mystery, but then dropped as the focus turns to the outlandish and unbelievable villain and his increasingly stomach-turning crimes. In the midst of this, Pryor throws in a flimsy terrorist subplot, or a big red-herring, to make things even murkier. Eventually the motive of the killer is revealed and his story was one tragedy—growing up unloved and deprived of the only person who cared for him and mattered to him, his mother—but the story is overall not convincing.
252 pp. Seventh Street Books. Paper. [Read|Skim|Toss] [Buy|Borrow]