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The Paris Enigma

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Overview

In the tradition of The Alienist and The Devil in the White City comes a gripping, atmospheric tale of murder and the art of crime solving.

Paris, 1889: in anticipation of the World's Fair and the opening of Monsieur Eiffel's tower, a society of the world's most famous detectives convenes as a single body for the very first time. Sent in place of a conspicuously absent Renato Craig, founding member of The Twelve, his novice assistant Sigmundo Salvatrio arrives, bearing a secret ...

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The Paris Enigma: A Novel

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Overview

In the tradition of The Alienist and The Devil in the White City comes a gripping, atmospheric tale of murder and the art of crime solving.

Paris, 1889: in anticipation of the World's Fair and the opening of Monsieur Eiffel's tower, a society of the world's most famous detectives convenes as a single body for the very first time. Sent in place of a conspicuously absent Renato Craig, founding member of The Twelve, his novice assistant Sigmundo Salvatrio arrives, bearing a secret message for the brilliant, brooding Viktor Arzaky, Craig's best friend and the society's cofounder. When one of The Twelve is discovered murdered at the Tower's base—the first in a series of grisly slayings—it falls to Arzaky and Salvatrio, the last remaining student of Craig's famed Academy for Detectives in Buenos Aires, to find and stop the killer. But what the two discover as they race around fin-de-siècle Paris—encountering secret societies, philosophical puzzles, and an imperiled, dangerously beautiful woman—has shattering consequences that will alter the fate of their precious brotherhood forever.

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Editorial Reviews

New York Times Book Review
“[A] beguiling historical whodunit . .. .”
Wall Street Journal
“Luminous...a tightly spun thriller...Mr. De Santis effortlessly incorporates important historical events (the building of the tower and the World’s Fair) into his narrative, as well as capturing the turn-of-the-century uneasiness over the emergence of the machine age.”
Publishers Weekly

Discriminating general readers as well as whodunit fans will enjoy this outstanding puzzler, winner of the first Casa de las Américas prize for best Latin American novel. Argentine author De Santis conjures up a veritable Justice League of 19th-century master sleuths-the 12 Detectives-who meet for the first time in Paris, at the 1889 World's Fair. Argentine Sigmundo Salvatrio, loyal assistant to founding member Renaldo Craig, represents the absent Craig. When Louis Darbon, one of two claimants among the 12 for the title of Detective of Paris, falls to his death from the Eiffel Tower shortly before the fair's opening, Darbon's rival, Polish expatriate Viktor Arkazy, takes Salvatrio on as his apprentice, and the pair struggle to solve the mystery before more victims are claimed. De Santis adroitly explores such issues as the difference between image and reality while providing intelligent and entertaining discussions of alternate approaches to detection. (Nov.)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Kirkus Reviews

In the City of Light, just as it is about to be illuminated by the 1889 World's Fair, a series of murders baffles an international band of detectives. Zut!

Argentine journalist and comic-strip creator De Santis chooses one of the moments when the Western world leapt further into the modern age to tell a slim and wistful story of a group of detectives. His narrator is Sigmundo Salvatrio, brainy and modestly ambitious son of a Buenos Aires shoemaker, who jumps at the advertised chance to train under Renato Craig, one of The Twelve Detectives, an intercontinental association of sleuths whose exploits are the grist for hugely popular pulp magazines. Each of the Twelve Detectives has an assistant—an acolyte—who extends his reach and, in some cases, documents his (there are no women in their number) deeds. Salvatrio is too modest to think he might become Craig's acolyte, but he excels at the training and, when the most promising student is murdered while on assignment, Craig anoints Salvatrio, and he assists the master in the solution of his classmate's demise and its ghastly denouement, a second murder that involves Craig and which leads to Salvatrio's mission to Paris when Craig falls ill. Salvatrio subsequently checks in with his fellow acolytes and meets their famous mentors. Like any band of geniuses, they are a complex lot, with huge egos, conflicting methods and longstanding rivalries. The Twelve become the Eleven when their senior member, one of two contenders for the Greatest Detective of Paris, slips in a puddle of deliberately spilled oil on the nearly finished Eiffel Tower and falls to his death. That shocking event is followed by the burning of a taxidermed corpse and thedrowning of a mermaid, mysteries to test the greatest minds.

Faintly charming, like an elegant but impractical antique automobile.

Agent: Markus Hoffmann/Regal Literary

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780061479687
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 12/8/2009
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 244
  • Sales rank: 1,428,212
  • Product dimensions: 5.20 (w) x 7.90 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Meet the Author

A journalist and comic-strip creator who became editorin chief of one of Argentina’s leading comics magazines,Pablo De Santis is the author of six critically acclaimed novels, one work of nonfiction, and a number of books for young adults. His works have been published in more than twenty countries. He lives in Buenos Aires.

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Read an Excerpt

The Paris Enigma

Chapter One

My name is Sigmundo Salvatrio. My father came to Buenos Aires from a town north of Genoa and made his living as a cobbler. When he married my mother, he already owned a shoe-repair shop specializing in men's footwear (he never felt comfortable fixing women's shoes). As a child, I often helped him with this work. Today, people in my profession view my method for classifying fingerprints (the Salvatrio method) with high regard—I owe that crime-solving innovation to the many hours I spent among the lasts and soles that filled our shop. I came to realize that detectives and shoemakers see the world from beneath, both focusing more on the footsteps that have strayed away from their intended path than the path itself.

My father was no spendthrift. Every time my mother asked for a little extra money, Renzo Salvatrio would say that wanton spending would eventually force us to subsist on boiled boot soles as Napoleon's soldiers had done during their Russian campaign. But despite his frugality, once a year he allowed himself an extravagance: on my birthday he would buy me a jigsaw puzzle.

He began the tradition with a hundred-piece puzzle, and each year the puzzles got more and more complex, until finally they had fifteen hundred pieces. They were made in Trieste and came in wooden boxes. Once they were complete you'd discover a watercolor of the Dome of Milan, or the Parthenon, or an old map with monsters lying in wait at the ends of the Earth. It always took me many days to finish them. My father believed that jigsaw puzzles were rigorous training for mental and visual acuity. He helped me enthusiastically butgenerally wasn't very good because he paid more attention to the color of the pieces than to their shape. I let him do it his way, and then I fixed them when he wasn't looking.

"An investigation and a jigsaw puzzle have nothing in common," swore Renato Craig, who would later become my mentor. But nevertheless it was this hobby that, in February 1888, led me to answer the ad Craig published in the newspaper. Renato Craig, the famous detective, the only one in Buenos Aires, wanted to share his knowledge, for the first time, with a group of young people. Over the course of a year, the chosen students would learn the art of investigation, preparing them to assist even the best of detectives. I still have the newspaper clipping; the ad was on the same page as a story about the arrival of Kalidan, a Hindu magician touring the country.

The detective's ad excited me, not only because of what it heralded, but also because it meant that Craig, Craig the loner, was finally willing to allow other human beings to learn his methods. Craig was a founding member of The Twelve, a group of the most elite detectives in the world. It was Craig himself who introduced the term acolyte to The Twelve Detectives as a way to refer to their assistants. During one of the group's first meetings, in 1872, he explained this designation with a definition from a dictionary of Latinisms: ACOLYTE: said of one that follows another as if he were his shadow.

Every member of the club had his acolyte, except for Craig. In the magazine, The Key to Crime, Craig had often defended his position by saying that acolytes weren't necessary to a detective, and that the nature of the profession called for solitude. Another member of the group, Viktor Arzaky, who was Craig's good friend, had always been critical of this assessment. The fact that Craig was now willing to train assistants was a direct contradiction to his previous philosophy.

The Paris Enigma. Copyright © by Pablo De Santis. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
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Customer Reviews

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( 8 )
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Sort by: Showing 1 – 10 of 8 Customer Reviews
  • Posted October 25, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    a superb historical mystery

    In 1889 Paris hosts the World's Fair. There twelve of the greatest detectives from around the globe meet for the first time. Make that eleven as the twelfth Sigmundo Salvatrio is representing his employer Renaldo Craig who is ill and unable to attend besides being tied up with two murders back home. Two of the investigators Louis Darbon and Polish immigrant Viktor Arkazy claim to be the Detective of Paris. However, their heated rivalry for the honor of top Paris sleuth ends when Darbon falls from the Eiffel Tower just before the gala begins.<BR/><BR/>Arkazy agrees to train Argentine Sigmundo Salvatrio on detecting although his student is Craig¿s assistant. They work on solving Darbon¿s homicide, as the Polish expatriate fears more of the international alliance of Twelve Detectives will be targeted by an unknown adversary especially when a preserved corpse is burned.<BR/><BR/>Told by the intelligent yet lacking confidence Sigmundo Salvatrio, THE PARIS ENIGMA is a superb historical mystery that uses late nineteenth century Paris (starting with the still not quite finished Eiffel Tower) as the backdrop to an entertaining whodunit. The story line is driven by The Twelve Detectives, whose competition for top gun turns nasty as superegos explode. Fans will enjoy the dysfunctional exploits of the world¿s greatest detectives struggling to solve THE PARIS ENIGMA with each wanting to be the one acclaimed as the best. <BR/><BR/>Harriet Klausner

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 31, 2010

    Unusual & Thought Provoking

    I liked this book once I finished it, mainly because I could then evaluate it based on the entire story. I appreciated the whole story and larger commentary much more than I did the individual parts of this book. It is definitely thought provoking - look elsewhere if you want something to read that is truly escapist. To be fair, the mystery is very good and the idea of a consortium of elite international detectives is really cool. In addition, the book would be great for a book club as it would undoubtedly arouse lots of discussion.

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  • Posted March 4, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Strangely disappointing

    I bought The Paris Enigma because I am interested in all things about Worlds Fairs and I like mysteries. I don't think the book fully satisfied either interest. There was very little actual description of the Paris World's Fair and the mystery plot was rather complicated and fantastical. I finished the book, and I'm glad I did, but I can't fully recommend it.

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    Posted January 30, 2009

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    Posted March 13, 2009

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