The Man Upon the Stair

Written by Gary Inbinder
Review by Elicia Parkinson

The third installment of Gary Inbinder’s Inspector Lefebvre series begins in Paris in 1890 with the execution the anarchist and terrorist, Moreau. Recently promoted to Chief Inspector, Achille Lefebvre has been warned by his predecessor that Moreau’s collaborators have sworn revenge. In addition to keeping one eye on his own back in an effort to foil any assassination attempts against him, Lefebvre has been personally asked by an acquaintance, the wife of one of France’s wealthiest barons, to investigate her husband’s sudden disappearance while he was vacationing in southeastern France. A case which might otherwise be standard becomes complicated by a series of unusual and dangerous occurrences from high-stakes gambling, to a poisoning, to Russian spies.

This is a wonderfully atmospheric novel with “purplish cloud cover,” figures hiding in the shadows of doorways, gaslights, and the sound of cartwheels and horses’ hooves on the cobblestone streets. Inbinder has created a convincing and intriguing mystery reminiscent of Parisian literature at the turn of the 20th century, when detective work was vastly different than it is today with the benefits of advanced technology.

While it’s not necessary to have read the first two books in the series, this might be helpful to better understand the dynamics between the characters and to piece together some of their histories. However, Inbinder does a good job of illustrating many of the relationships and shares the necessary information for a first-time reader to be able to grasp personalities and motives. Recommended for readers interested in fin-de-siècle Paris and fans of historical mysteries.