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  • Writer's pictureIan Ayris

A Dead American in Paris by Seth Lynch - a review

The Blurb

Paris 1931

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.

The Opening

'Although he was no longer there it was easy to picture him, slumped over the table, a knife buried deep in his back. The blood stains on the table, chair and floor remained and I'd seen enough dead men to fill in the gaps. I do try to remember that they're all different, that each body represents a life ended. A life with its own passions of love and hate. Its own stomach problems, bad breath and aching feet. But no matter their differences before the final heartbeat, all Death's children are alike.'

The Review

A Dead American in Paris is the second of the 3rd Republic novels by Seth Lynch. I review the first one - A Citizen of Nowhere - here:

As you can see - if you read the review - it blew me away.

A Dead American in Paris did exactly the same.

In this novel we find Salazar - a very English private detective with the sensibilities (or lack thereof) of Philip Marlowe - having just been hired by the very wealthy Fulton Snr with orders to investigate the arrest of his son Fulton Jr (Harry).

The Paris Police seem to have it all sewn up, and Harry looks like he's heading for a bad place. But Salazar, being Salazar, has to make his own mind up.

The seedy side of Paris is where all the answers lie. Fortunately, Salazar is no stranger to the dark side of the street, and sets out on an investigation that throws up dead bodies aplenty, silhouetted figures beneath flickering streetlamps and a whole cast of brilliantly drawn untrustworthy characters, all against the backdrop of a 1930s Paris brought to life in such a way as to be - perhaps - the most important character of all.

And amidst all of this, Salazar has no idea who is really pulling the strings.

Now to the writing.

As you can tell from the opening, the writing is of a standard that turns crime fiction into literary fiction yet retaining the cut and conciseness of the very best crime fiction.

Opening the book at random, this is an example:

'We scurried down the rue Tolbac, being sliced in two by a sadistic wind. The nearest place of refuge was a grotty bar-tabac. We plunged straight in trying not to look too hard at the shelf lined with the dirty cups that our drinks would arrive in.'

The dialogue too is top notch but I don't want to quote anything else as I don't want to spoil your enjoyment of this beautifully written book. Yes, it is violent - graphically so - it is set in the darkest, seediest place you can imagine, populated by the darkest, seediest characters. And Lynch puts a rusty knife to the throat of the reader and drags them into every unwholesome crevice Paris between the wars has to offer.

Yet, A Dead American in Paris really is a beautiful book. Indeed, I cannot recommend this book and this series highly enough.

With just a couple of pages to go, I still didn't know the solution to the crime. And I felt battered and cut and filthy. And I read on in wonder at how a writer can achieve such things.

A Dead American in Paris is available from Fahrenheit Press is paperback, Kindle and Epub versions here:

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