Murder on the Eiffel Tower
June 1889. The Eiffel Tower is the most popular exhibit of the Paris Exposition and thousands flock each day to climb it. These include Victor Legris, owner of a bookshop. There, in the crush of people, he bumps into his friend, Marius Bonnet, and his employees. Marcus is the editor of a newspaper that thrives on scandal and spectacle. Victor is immediately attracted to the beautiful Tasha Kherson, a Russian artist who is the paper’s illustrator. While they are on the tower, a woman dies suddenly, apparently as the result of a bee-sting.
Such a death at the very top of the Eiffel Tower is strange enough but when other such deaths follow randomly and both Victor’s partner and mentor, the enigmatic Kenji Mori, and the intriguing Tasha seem to be closely linked to the victims, Victor sets out to discover the truth.
This is an old-fashioned crime novel in both style and substance. The pace is slow. Victor spends an awful lot of the time wandering aimlessly about the streets of Paris. Although he eventually identifies the killer, it takes a written confession by the latter to explain the reasons behind the apparently random choice of victims. It may be intentional on the part of the author (who is in fact two people) to re-create the style of a 19th century crime novel, but I’m not sure it works because readers today expect more sophistication. Both the plot and the killer’s motives had as many holes in them as Monsieur Eiffel’s tower itself. As a Francophile and a lover of the 19th century I began reading with high expectations and perhaps it’s my fault I was disappointed.
I liked the portrayal of the little bookshop, its customers and its apple-munching assistant but felt there should have been more about the impact the tower made on the city and its people. I had also expected something with a little more panache, in which, judging from the French reviews of the original Mystere rue des Saintes-Pierres, I am not alone.