Saturday, February 22, 2014

New from Mark Pryor: THE BLOOD PROMISE, French Crime Fiction

Follow closely: Mark Pryor was British but he now lives in Texas, where he works as an assistant district attorney. His protagonist Hugo Marston is American and works in Paris. With me so far?

Good. Because I have terrific news: There is a new (third!) Hugo Marston mystery available -- it was released last month -- and it's every bit as good as the other two (see our review from last year: And it has a wonderful new twist: DNA evidence used not to clear or convict of a crime, but to provide enormous motivation for murder. Hence one aspect of the title: THE BLOOD PROMISE.

Hugo Marston's return to the scene -- he works as the security chief for the American ambassador in Paris -- also brings back Marston's dare-anything friend Tom Green, a former CIA agent with current connections, living in his newly sober stage of life with Marston. And then there's Capitaine Raul Garcia, a powerful Paris investigator who used to counter Marston but now teams up with him (and, if it can be done discretely, with Tom Green as well).

When Marston's chasing a lead, it's in order to protect the vulnerable American reputation in France. This time it's a case of smoothing the way for a right-wing U.S. Senator on hand to conduct secret negotiations with French political leaders about the future of Guadeloupe. Since Senator Lake has a reputation of being stridently anti-Europe, Marston expects to function as a multilingual diplomat at the country mansion of Henri Tourville.

But instead, the Senator insists someone has entered his room at night at the mansion; Tourville refuses flatly to allow any of his family or servants to be fingerprinted; and the lone print that Marston and the Capitaine capture that's unusual turns out to be linked -- without a name -- to a recent murder in another rural location.

Pryor neatly twists the notion of French crime investigation so that it makes perfect sense for Americans to be detectives-in-place. His Paris scenes are rich with detail. And best of all, throughout the quickly action and cleverly tangles, he makes room for matters of the heart -- what else is Paris for? But what Marston wants and what this case delivers are far apart, and grievous losses occur before the means, motive, and opportunity, and finally identity of the criminal(s), can be determined.

It's not critical to read the two earlier Marston books (The Crypt Thief and The Bookseller), but after enjoying this one, you may want to go back and pick them up. All are paperback originals from Seventh Street Books, an imprint of Prometheus Books.

And when you'd like to check out the author, here's his website: My suggestion: Read the books first; then go investigate Pryor's wry British take on life and writing.

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