Thursday, October 16, 2008

The Paris Enigma by Pablo De Santis

It's 1889. The Eiffel Tower is just about complete and the Paris World's Fair is set to begin. The Twelve Detectives, an elite group of crime investigators, is preparing to meet for the first time at the fair. They will be presenting a display of their craft to the world. When one of them becomes ill, he decides to send his assistant, acolyte as they call him, in his place. His name is Sigmundo Salvatrio and used to work with his father in the family shoe store. That is, until he become a student of Renaldo Craig, the founding member of the Twelve Detectives. Now, he carries with him Craig's cane, for the exhibit and a secret message for Arzaky, another one of the detectives. The detectives and acolytes are called into action when a series of murders takes place.

The Paris Enigma is a fantastic mystery from Argentinean author, Pablo De Santis. It's wonderfully written, filled with great characters and is a joy to read. There was a mystical,
whimsical, philosophical and fantasy-like aspect to the whole book that I quite enjoyed. Not like any other mystery I've read. The fact that it was written from the point of view of one of the acolytes rather than one of the detectives, made the story appealing, since the acolytes were supposed to take a back seat to the detectives. Some of the detectives didn't even talk to their assistants.

I admit it was a little hard to keep track of all of the detectives and acolytes and I sometimes got them mixed up. I also had some trouble remembering which acolyte belonged to which detective. It wasn't all that bad, though, and certainly didn't get in the way of my enjoyment of the book.

De Santis's writing is superb. There were many times I put down the book to record a favourite quote or passage. I've included three here. They might not make sense out of context, but I wanted to make note of them.

From page 189:
Everyone knew that the important stuff was what was said in the corners, not in the center of the room.

From page 193:
The first audience members leave the theater chatting and laughing, eager to abandon the world of fiction and reenter the real, where they fell at home. The last ones to leave, on the other hand, have to be forced out by the ushers or the lights going up or the silence that follows the applause. If it were up to them, they would remain there in the imaginary world the performance offers them. These last stragglers came out without saying a word, grieving over having to abandon the Mermaid's island. They didn't know their place in the world outside; in the real life the seats aren't numbered.

From page 205:
Science no longer strives to collect answers, but rather to obliterate the questions.

I'd definitely read another book by this author.

Highly recommended.

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