A well-drawn character in a book can jump out of the page at you sometimes. When that character is the protagonist from several books it’s almost like hanging out with an old friend. I was so pleased to reacquaint myself with Christopher Marlowe Cobb. I wanted to see how he’d been doing. I find him alive and well; grown up a bit, aged very slightly, but wearing his maturity well. A little less impetuous than previously but still the James Bond of the 1900s!!

So I knew what to expect when I dived into this book and I wasn’t disappointed, not for a second. Butler writes an intelligent, action-packed story with just enough romance to maintain a balance between all the elements that make up this pacy Parisian spy tale.

It’s atmospheric and well researched, so much so that you almost fail to appreciate the subtlety of the research in the descriptions of the streets, vehicles and their interiors and the atmosphere of a city in a war-torn country. I guess if you want to explore the themes more deeply you could find some political and cultural parallels within our contemporary world but it’s okay if you don’t for the story is so keenly plotted, the narrative so well paced that you can gain much satisfaction from this Pulitzer prize winning writer.

It’s unashamed storytelling with no defiance of structure and language conventions, a chronological narrative with a beginning, a middle and an end. A crescendo-like climax that has you missing some words in your eagerness to find out what happens. And of course there are no punches pulled, there’s some violence but it makes a point. War is messy. Being a spy is a perilous occupation. I don’t believe the story would possess the credibility it does if Butler soft pedalled.

And I’m left wondering what Kit Cobb will get up to next? Over to you Robert Olen Butler!! Write me another?

Gill Chedgey 4/3

Paris in the Dark by Robert Olen Butler
No Exit Press 9781843448938 pbk Jul 2019