Hello and a very warm welcome to my hairy blog 😁
#Fahrenbruary* continues on at a pace and so today I present to you a repost of my review of the 2nd book in this wonderful, wonderful series. This review originally appeared last year on the blog tour organised by the rather splendid, and all round ace blogger and blog tour organiser, Emma Welton, aka @damppebbles over on that Twitter (check her out here too… https://damppebbles.com/damppebbles-blog-tours/)
*if you’re not sure what #Fahrenbruary is all about, check out my post… HERE
Stalking your latest PI job through the streets of Paris you pass several cafés, resisting the temptation to enter each one and have a small snifter of Cognac. Then, suddenly, you spy your quarry darting into a small alleyway. Quickly, you begin to cross the road eager to catch him before he slips through your fingers again.
From out of nowhere one of those newfangled autos passes behind you, belching exhaust smoke into the air and almost running into you, developing you in its smog. When will they ban these infernal contraptions? What’s wrong with the tram, train or the velocipede? As you regain your composure you realise that you have lost sight of your man. Drat! As the smoke clears, coughing and eyes stinging, you see something on the wall opposite you. You can’t make it out at first, but as your eyes refocus you see with some surprise that the writing scrawled on the wall of the alley is a… blurb:
Arty Homebrook lived and died in a world of sleaze which stretched from Chicago to Paris but never beyond the gutter.
He’d been sleeping with Madame Fulton, which is why Harry Fulton promised to kill him. So far as the Paris Police are concerned it’s an open and shut case. Harry’s father has other ideas and hires Salazar to investigate.
As Salazar gets to grips with the case he’s dragged reluctantly into an unpleasant underworld of infidelity, blackmail, backstreet abortions and murder.
Salazar is far too inquisitive to walk away and far too stubborn to know what’s for the best. So he wakes up each hungover morning, blinks into the sunlight, and presses on until it’s his life on the line. Then he presses on some more, just for the hell of it.
Listen! Do you hear that? That soft sigh of pleasure? That small ‘squee’ of excitement? That, my Beardy Blog fans, is me. It is me expressing the sheer, unadulterated joy of reading a new Salazar adventure. You must know that feeling, right? When you discover a new book, a new author, a set of characters that you just can’t wait to return to. That was I after reading Seth’s first Salazar adventure, ‘A Citizen Of Nowhere‘. You can read what I thought of that here.
I think that it is pretty much safe to say that in A Dead American In Paris (which, from here on in, I shall refer to as ADAIP as I cannot be arsed to type A Dead American In Paris over and over again. I mean, who could be bothered to type A Dead American In Paris throughout a whole review about a book titled A Dead American In Paris? Exactly, no one. So, henceforth and hencewith and hencethat, A Dead American In Paris shall be known as ADAIP. Lovely 😊 ), Seth has once again delivered the goods. He wastes no time in getting to the meat and two veg of the story (although there wouldn’t be any meat as Salazar, and, Seth, are both vegan. So, let’s say seitan, or other meat substitute of your choosing, and two veg), as our hero, Reggie Salazar, stands in a small apartment in Paris in 1931, where a man was previously found dead, slumped over a table with a knife sticking out of his back. He has been tasked by the father of the man arrested for his murder to prove his son, Harry Fulton, is innocent of the heinous crime. Was this a Crime of Passion or is there something more sinister at play? The hunt for Arty Homebrook‘s killer – for it is he who has expired – leads Salazar to some decidedly dark and dodgy places and the very best and very worst that 1930’s Paris has to offer.
Looking at a the photo of Seth Lynch below, I very much doubt that he was alive during the 1930’s. If he was I most definitely want some of whatever beauty and anti-ageing treatments that he has been using. Can you imagine the fortune he would make from that? He would be utterly minted. But, and I’m going with my gut here, and assuming that he wasn’t roaming about Paris in the inter-war years, he manages to conjure up a remarkably atmospheric vision of what it must’ve been like at that time: a Paris festooned with cafés of every kind catering for every person; violent criminal gangs; mist filled streets; putrid alleyways filled with rotten and rotting vegetables; run down, neglected buildings and apartments:
“I felt the apartment was beginning to reveal something of its soul to me. It was an empty and lonely soul. If it were human you’d find it on the bridge at the parc des Buttes-Chaumont, about to step off and end it all. Seeing the apartment in this human form, you might have been tempted to let it end its miserable life without any intervention except, perhaps, a gentle push to help it on its way.”
New fangled automobiles are also rising throughout the city, belching their smoke into the Parisian air and generally making a nuisance of themselves. All highly inconsiderate; they’ll never amount to anything.
Seth’s Paris is a wonderfully evoked city, full of life and low-life. Salazar stumbles his way from café to café, smoking his beloved Gitanes, drinking wine and/or Cognac and smoking the odd reefer, until he passes out and falls over somewhere. Throughout all of this though he is also a determined Private Detective, not really caring whether his client is innocent or not, but caring very much that justice is done one way or the other.
One of my favourite aspects of these books is that Seth doesn’t just spin a yarn that happens to be set in 1930’s Paris; this isn’t just a gimmick to make his books stand out from the rest. Through his superb and varied set of characters, and the city of Paris itself, Seth also explores the attitudes and culture of the time. ADAIP deals with issues of infidelity, women’s rights, marriage and abortion, which was illegal in France at that time. Salazar himself is a British ex-pat, suffering the after effects of PTSD after WW1 (something that is fully explored in Citizen), he’s vegan, and has taken a vow of non-violence, something that he struggles to adhere to at times as he descends into the murky and highly disturbing world of the backstreet abortionists of Paris. Fortunately for Salazar he has Megan, his childhood friend and now girlfriend, to keep him on task. Megan is a wonderfully strong and intelligent woman who struggles with the French, or maybe just Parisian, attitudes to fidelity and women’s rights:
‘The problem is money and power,’ Megan said. ‘In France the husband has all the power. The second a woman mumbles “I do” she signs over all her financial assets to her husband. She can’t even open a bank account without her husband’s say-so. Legally wives are treated like children. If a wife complains about her husband sleeping around he can beat her without mercy and the law won’t even give him a telling off. To top it all he can force himself on her as often as his conscience will allow. And this is in a society which stigmatises divorce.’ She jabbed her cigarette out in the ashtray then sparked up a new one.”
Salazar is a very forward thinking man for the time. In principle he agrees with Megan, though his views on fidelity are slightly less settled, but having Megan in his life has certainly changed him from the man we first met in A Citizen of Nowhere. Whereas the attitude of his friend Mikhail, a Russian immigrant, towards fidelity is far more, um, liberal, as this exchange between their friends shows as they speak about Salazar’s case:
“‘They call it Crime of Passion,’ Mikhail said. ‘I call it Crime of Stupid. What business is it of a husband who his wife sleeps with?’ His eyes flicked from one to the other of us. They came to a rest on mine, as if I was going to back him up. Ah Mikhail, Mikhail, you can plough that furrow alone. Besides, I was no longer sure on which side of that fence I sat. ‘If you are considering adding the line: and what business is it of the wife if…’ Astrid said, ‘then I’ll tell you right now; every dammed business.’ Mikhail had transformed a quick row around the boating lake into a perilous voyage through shark infested waters. Although he didn’t realise it, he was the one the sharks had their eyes on. Change the subject, Mikhail, I thought, else you might not be leaving this café in one piece.”
This little exchange is an example of the wonderful language and writing that Seth employs throughout ADAIP. The whole book is peppered with simply beautiful prose and little insights into the minds of the characters:
“Megan was sitting in a dark corner of the café beneath a poster for last year’s student ball. That was the one where a junior priest from Saint-Séverin got pelted with eggs and flour. While still dazed from the pelting a gang of four or five art students stole his cassock. The poor chap had to walk home with only his blushes to keep him warm.” and “The previous day I’d walked this same route through the city and whistled a merry tune and thought not a jot about buildings or trees or passing shadows. I was, if not joyous, then content. Then came the case. A murder. And death breathes life into melancholy. Where some have iron in their soul, I have an inclination towards morbidity. So here we are, a dead American in a dead-end street. One more corpse for the dream factory. One more ghost to haunt me in those hours where the insomniatic darkness gives birth to another trembling futile morning.“
Alongside Salazar and Megan, ADAIP reunites us our favourite characters from A Citizen Of Nowhere: Salazar’s landlord, the chess loving Marcel Filatre; Filatre’s paramour, and Salazar’s aunt, Bess; and Salazar’s ever reliable helper, Hervé. We also have new addition, Chief Inspector Belmont of the Paris Police. Belmont stars in his own book, The Paris Ripper, one I’ve yet to read, but he is already a favourite of mine. Who cannot help but like a policeman who likes a drink or three, or four, whilst he’s on the job?
You can probably tell that I bloody adore this book, and it’s predecessor, with all my heart. Seth has created a set of characters, and a period city setting, that truly draws you in and fully immerses you in its world. I really wish that I had a time machine, or was able to ‘Bookjump‘, Jasper Fforde stylee, straight into the world of Salazar and live in this world for a time. Sure, I wouldn’t want to stay there – WW2 is just around the corner – but oh to savour the atmosphere, the cafés, and to spend some time with Salazar himself, would be truly wonderful for a while.
I honestly don’t feel that I’ve really done this book justice in this review. There’s so much to enjoy in both Seth’s writing and in the book itself. His books are clever, intelligent, witty and offer an eye into the social attitudes and conventions of the time. I really hope that this isn’t the last that we have seen of Salazar, Megan, Filatre and the Paris of the 1930’s. I will stomp my feet, pout and sulk if it is! Be warned, Seth Lynch, be warned! 😉
In conclusion, I have just one more thing to say:
There, job done 🙂
My sincere and most mahoosive thanks to Seth and to Emma Welton (aka Damppebbles) for my copy of this book and for allowing me to gush all over this Blog Blitz 🙂
Now, don’t think you can just relax back and think, oh cool, that’s that then! NO! You can check out the other brilliant bloggers on this Blitz and see what they thought of A Dead American In Paris, too. Yes, yes you can 🙂
About Seth Lynch:
Born and brought up in the West of England, Seth has also lived in Carcassonne, Zurich and the Isle of Man.
With two daughters, his writing time is the period spent in cafés as the girls do gym, dance and drama lessons.
Seth’s Social Media:
Amazon Author Page:
Buy Seth Lynch’s book direct from Fahrenheit Press:
A Citizen of Nowhere (Salazar Book 1):
A Dead American in Paris (Salazar Book 2):
The Paris Ripper (Chief Inspector Belmont Book 1):