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The Paris Librarian (Hugo Marston Series #6)

The Paris Librarian (Hugo Marston Series #6)

5.0 2
by Mark Pryor

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Hugo Marston’s friend Paul Rogers dies unexpectedly in a locked room at the American Library in Paris. The police conclude that Rogers died of natural causes, but Hugo is certain mischief is afoot.

As he pokes around the library, Hugo discovers that rumors are swirling around some recently donated letters from American actress Isabelle Severin. The


Hugo Marston’s friend Paul Rogers dies unexpectedly in a locked room at the American Library in Paris. The police conclude that Rogers died of natural causes, but Hugo is certain mischief is afoot.

As he pokes around the library, Hugo discovers that rumors are swirling around some recently donated letters from American actress Isabelle Severin. The reason: they may indicate that the actress had aided the Resistance in frequent trips to France toward the end of World War II. Even more dramatic is the legend that the Severin collection also contains a dagger, one she used to kill an SS officer in 1944.

Hugo delves deeper into the stacks at the American library and finally realizes that the history of this case isn’t what anyone suspected. But to prove he’s right, Hugo must return to the scene of a decades-old crime.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Early in Pryor’s solid sixth Hugo Marston novel (after 2015’s The Reluctant Matador), Hugo, the security officer at the American embassy in Paris, visits the American Library in Paris, where his friend Paul Rogers is the director. When Hugo, a sympathetic lead with a strong moral compass, knocks on Paul’s office door, he gets no response. Since the door is locked, he must rely on a library employee with a key to open it. Inside, Paul is sitting in his chair, dead. Perhaps he died of natural causes, but of course it could be a case of foul play. Might there be a connection between Paul’s demise and the library having recently acquired the papers of American actress Isabelle Severin, now in her late 90s, who spied for the Allies in France during WWII? Pryor carefully plants clues amid the red herrings, though the obscure and somewhat tawdry solution may disappoint some readers. Agent: Ann Collette, Rees Literary Agency. (Aug.)
From the Publisher
“Mark Pryor’s Hugo Marston series is one of the most engaging mystery series going, and the latest installment does not disappoint. Atmospheric and intricate, and suffused with the romance of modern Paris. A great read.”

—WILLIAM LANDAY, bestselling author of Defending Jacob

The sixth Hugo Marston novel has it all: a Paris setting, a locked-room death that may or may not be murder, a beautiful actress who was a spy for the French resistance during the Second World War and a dead Nazi…Marston follows the clues in a finely structured plot that’s one of Pryor’s best books yet.”

Toronto Globe & Mail

“To read the book is to smell and taste the food, feel the air of [Paris], and hear the language… Spending a couple of hours in the company of Hugo Marston is always enjoyable, and reading The Paris Librarian was no exception.”

Reviewing The Evidence

“Well-written and compelling, with twists at every turn to keep the reader guessing… Now I have to go back to the beginning and start the series with The Bookseller!”

The Book Basics

“It has something for everyone—booze, guns, action, beautiful women, history, humor, danger, fantastic French food, and BOOKS! Pryor’s series is one of my favorites.”

The Paris Librarian is the latest entry in one of my favorite series in crime fiction. Mark Pryor keeps getting better and better—the great sense of place, a bibliophile mystery, and a well-crafted novel of suspense all add up to a fantastic read.”

—LINDA FAIRSTEIN, author of Killer Look, an Alexandra Cooper novel

My favorite bibliophile returns in this stylish and entertaining read. Hugo Marston has a nose for first editions, and trouble. In this deftly plotted mystery, the Paris cafés are beguiling, the clues are subtle and ingenious, and the denouement is both thrilling and unexpected. The author is in impeccable form.”

—CAROL K. CARR, author of the Madam of Espionage Mysteries

“Mark Pryor is at the top of his game with The Paris Librarian, the latest installment of the Hugo Marston series. While the characters remain warm and familiar, the suspense will keep you guessing well into the wee hours of the morning. It’s always a treat to step back into Hugo’s world. Pryor has cemented himself as a mystery writer not to be missed.”

—JENNIFER HILLIER, author of Creep and Wonderland

A book lover’s mystery and a mystery lover’s book. Is it possible to make Paris a more intriguing city? Pryor has done it, yet again. Rare books, not-so-rare death, and a café au lait. So real you can smell the baguettes. Pryor’s books are like an elegant café you can’t wait to visit again . . . with friends. I’d follow Hugo Marston down any rue sombre.”

—STEVEN SIDOR, author of Pitch Dark

Library Journal
Hugo Marston, chief of security for the American Embassy in Paris, and his CIA pal Tom Green investigate the mysterious death of the head of the American Library, who had recently acquired the papers of Isabella Severin, believed to have been a French spy during World War II. Are there buried secrets in these documents? The sixth series title follows The Reluctant Matador.
Kirkus Reviews
A Paris librarian's death is just the start of a series of mysterious occurrences.Former FBI profiler Hugo Marston, who's working at the U.S. Embassy in Paris and sharing an apartment with his best friend, CIA freelancer Tom Green, is intrigued by a call from Paul Rogers, the director of the American Library in Paris, about an upcoming book sale that may allow Hugo to add to his collection of signed first editions. At the library, Hugo gets Paul's assistant, Michael Harmuth, to let him into a basement room where Paul is no longer working on his own novel because he's suddenly died. Despite every appearance of natural death, Hugo has a bad feeling he shares with Lt. Camille Lerens, his friend in the Brigade Criminelle. Camille, who used to be Christophe, humors Hugo by using the death as a training exercise for a CSU team. Hugo knows from his friend Merlyn and her journalist pal Miki about Miki's plan to write a story about Isabelle Severin, a famous actress who's rumored to have been a spy and killed a Gestapo officer during World War II. Severin, now descending into dementia, has donated most of her personal papers to the American Library, but Miki wants access to the material she thinks Severin is holding back. Meanwhile, the police finally establish that Paul's curare poisoning was either suicide or murder. When his girlfriend is found dead, another apparent suicide, Hugo, certain that both deaths are murder, begins to look for a killer among the unlucky pair's friends and colleagues. The answer may be buried deep in the past, but Hugo's Sherlock-ian skills serve him well as he hunts a killer. More cerebral than Pryor's earlier cases (The Reluctant Matador, 2015, etc.), but fans will still find plenty of action.

Product Details

Prometheus Books
Publication date:
Hugo Marston Series , #6
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.40(w) x 7.70(h) x 0.70(d)

Read an Excerpt

The Paris Librarian

A Hugo Marston Novel


Prometheus Books

Copyright © 2016 Mark Pryor
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-63388-177-8


The note sat beside his coffeemaker, the elegant handwriting unmistakable.

Café Laruns at 8:30 this morning. Come alone and unarmed. Tell no one.

Hugo Marston read the note twice and sighed. Despite Tom Green's rough demeanor, hard-drinking ways, and sailor's vocabulary, his friend and current roommate had an artistic side that very occasionally revealed itself in his appreciation of classical music, several styles of painting, and, less occasionally, in his own handwriting.

The clock on the kitchen wall read eight, and Hugo considered the possibilities. Either Tom was back working for the CIA and needed his help with an undercover operation, or his friend was screwing with him. Given the tone of the note, Hugo was prepared to put his money on the latter. Even so, a trip to Café Laruns was welcome enough on a lazy Sunday morning, especially since the coffeemaker propping up Tom's note turned out either sludge or drain water depending on its mood. Thee decision was made easier when a quick check of the fridge showed that someone had eaten the last of the eggs and bread.

Thee only thing that gave Hugo pause was the time of the requested rendezvous. Rare enough for Tom to be out of bed by nine, let alone eight, on a weekend — or any day come to that — and also be in decent-enough shape to leave the apartment for a meeting.

Hugo opened the window to check on the temperature, the cool of the early morning already giving way to a mugginess that had clogged Paris for most of August. Half a dozen times that month the city had been battered by afternoon thunderstorms, rain pounding the pavements and the streets, turning them into little rivers as the sky crackled and snapped with lightning, thunder rolling angrily above. August was vacation month in France, and traditionally Hugo, along with many other employees at the US Embassy, was given the chance to work from home when he was able. Several afternoons he'd watched from his fifth-floor apartment as the tourists on Rue Jacob scurried for cover, filling the nearby cafés and bistros. The stores selling cheap umbrellas and plastic ponchos filled their coffers, too, opening their doors wide every time the sky darkened or a few heavy raindrops hit the sidewalk.

Hugo showered and dressed quickly. He ran a comb through his hair and frowned when he spotted a few more grays. Time to stop looking too closely, he thought.

He trotted down the stairs and waved at Dimitrios, the concierge for the apartment building. The Greek wasn't supposed to work weekends, but he lived three streets away in a tiny apartment with his wife and four children, and his comfy chair and sturdy desk were the perfect place to find peace and quiet, and to read a good book. He looked up and spoke as Hugo passed.

"Bonjour, Monsieur Marston, did the young lady find you?"

Hugo stopped. "'Young lady'?"

"She was here yesterday. You were at work. Don't worry, I didn't tell her anything about you, not where you work or your schedule or anything."

"I appreciate the discretion, Dimitrios, but I don't know who you're talking about. Not Claudia?"

"Non, non, of course not. She was younger, this one." His eyes brightened at the memory and he gave Hugo a mischievous wink. "Very pretty, though. I won't mention her to Mademoiselle Claudia, I promise."

Hugo shrugged. "I still don't know who you're talking about, I'm afraid. Claudia's the only woman I've dated in a long time. Perhaps one of Monsieur Green's friends?"

"Non, certainement pas." Dimitrios shook his head. Definitely not. "This one was ... she was dressed a little strangely, all in black but she seemed sweet, a nice girl. Not his type."

Hugo laughed. "You are an observant man. If she comes back, ask for her name and phone number. I'm curious now."

"Oui, monsieur, I will." The conspiratorial wink again. "And not a word to Mademoiselle Claudia."

Hugo chuckled and stepped out onto Rue Jacob, turning right and starting a slow stroll toward Café Laruns. He had no plans for the day other than a desire to peruse the stalls along the River Seine that offered mostly tourist items but also the occasional collectible book, which is where Hugo's interest lay. Since the disappearance of his bouquiniste friend Max, Hugo had subconsciously put a hold on his slow but regular book buying, stalling the gradual trickle of first and rare editions that he'd gathered for years. He owned almost a hundred, some in his bedroom but most in a locked glass cabinet in the main room of his apartment. Their colorful spines were a special display to Hugo, a touchable and re-arrangeable work of art more permanent than flowers but just as beautiful. And they were more than just trophies to admire. Hugo had read every single one, convinced that even rare and delicate books deserved the fulfilment of their purpose before being transformed into collectors' items, treasures that were no longer cherished for the words between the covers but for the covers themselves and the name printed on the front.

As he neared the end of Rue Jacob, his phone rang and the name Paul Rogers showed up on the screen. Rogers was the director of the American Library in Paris, on Rue du Général Camou, in the Seventh Arrondissment. Hugo had worked several functions there for the ambassador, and Rogers was his point of contact. He was in his late fifties, balding, and quiet but always ready with a smile — and ruthlessly efficient.

Hugo also knew that there was a little more to the man than his gentle demeanor suggested. As a matter of course Hugo was required to look into Rogers's background, and in doing so had unearthed a past that, in days gone by, would have been labeled "colorful." The librarian's interest in books was preceded by a career in film, making short movies that catered to a small but enthusiastic group of adults whose nocturnal activities were harmless, other than being potential fodder for the tabloids should a politician or movie star be found in their midst. Hugo and Ambassador Taylor had enjoyed a chuckle over some of the imaginative titles, but they quickly decided that his lack of criminal record, his bachelor's in English literature and master's degree in library science, and the trust of his young but highly cultured fiancée, Sarah Gregory, were better ways to judge the man.

Without hesitation they'd agreed that Paul Rogers was no security concern, and over their dozen or so interactions he'd proved himself devoted to his books, his girlfriend, and helping the diplomats and other guests of the American embassy enjoy the delights of the largest English-language lending library on the European continent. The library sold books, too, twice a month, and Hugo had asked Rogers to call him when he noticed something special up for grabs.

"Paul, how are you?" Hugo said, slowing his walk.

"Great. Just wanted to let you know about a little sale we're having."

"Oh yes?"

"Not just the usual fundraising thing. We have some older books we don't really have space for any more, and some others we don't want to spend the money restoring. Two or three hundred books — I'm sure you could find something."

"Any particular theme?"

"No, we have a little of everything. The big moneymaker will likely be a six-volume set of Gibbon's History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire."

"Surely not a first-edition set?" asked Hugo.

"It most certainly is." A note of humor entered Rogers's voice. "Care to guess how much we're selling it for?"

Hugo stopped and leaned against the stone wall of a boutique clothing store. He could picture the books in his mind but couldn't even imagine owning a set like that. Or reading it. "Well out of my league, I'm sure. Twenty grand?"

"Thirty-five, in US dollars."

"That'll pay your salary for a couple of years."

"I wish you were joking," Rogers said lightly.

"You're worth every penny. Any stocking stuffers I might be able to afford?"

"You like the literature side of things, if I recall. As opposed to photography, religion, and philosophy, I mean. Couple of good travel books, too, if that's your thing."

"It is in theory, but I have to focus my collection. Until you mistakenly sell me a first-edition Jack London or H. G. Wells for a couple hundred bucks."

"Lord, I'd lose my job for that." Rogers laughed. "Let me think. We have a first-edition of Cormac McCarthy's The Road for a few hundred dollars."

"I prefer something a little older. Signed, too, if possible," Hugo added. "Almost all the ones in my tiny collection are signed."

"Nothing springs to mind, I'd have to look and see which ones are," Rogers said. "Oh, wait. How about a Truman Capote? In Cold Blood. I know it's a first edition and I think it has his autograph in it, too."

"How much?"

"Three thousand, I think. Let me pull it up on my computer."

"For that price, it better be signed."

"Here we go. Yep, three-and-a-half thousand, and it's signed. Want me to put it aside?"

"Let me think about it. That's still pretty expensive — I'm just a lowly government employee, you know."

Rogers laughed. "I know, Hugo, I know. The sale starts tomorrow, so I'll hold it for you until you get here, does that work?"

"Perfect. I'll take the morning off and be there by ten."

"Do me a favor. Bring your buddy Tom, he's a blast. And I like the way he spends your money."

"I'll think about it."

As soon as Hugo hung up, his phone rang again.

"You coming or not?" Tom asked.

"I'm on my way, five minutes at the most. What's going on?"

"It's a secret."

"Yes, one that I'll find out in five minutes. Why can't you just tell me now?" Hugo waited for a response. "Tom. Hello?" The screen on his phone was dark. "Typical," Hugo muttered to himself, and resumed his walk.

It took him ten minutes, and he breathed in deeply as he pushed open the door to Café Laruns, the aromas of coffee and freshly baked bread welcoming him into the large, cool room. He saw Tom at the back of the café, sitting with two people, a young lady he didn't recognize and another slight figure who was sitting with her back to him. He started toward them and waved when Tom looked up.

He was ten yards from their table when the young lady with her back to him turned around. Hugo stopped in his tracks, a smile of surprise and delight spreading across his face. She smiled, too, then sprang up and ran over, wrapping her arms around him and squeezing tight.

"Well, now, what are you doing here?" he asked, hugging her back.

She looked up and grinned. "I'm pretty sure you said I could visit anytime I liked."

"I'm sure I did," Hugo said. "But we have phones here; you're allowed to call in advance."

"Ha!" She released him, tucking her arm through his and leading him to the table. "Don't you remember our trip to the cemetery? The party we went to?"

"How could I forget?" Hugo grimaced playfully. "Ah yes, that's right. You're one for surprises, no doubt about that."

She squeezed his arm. "Especially where you're concerned."

They stopped beside her empty chair and Hugo looked into those clear, almond-shaped eyes. "It's good to see you again, Merlyn, it really is."


Excerpted from The Paris Librarian by MARK PRYOR. Copyright © 2016 Mark Pryor. Excerpted by permission of Prometheus Books.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

Mark Pryor is the author of the Hugo Marston novels The Bookseller, The Crypt Thief, The Blood Promise, The Button Man, and The Reluctant Matador, and the stand-alone Hollow Man. He has also published the true-crime book As She Lay Sleeping. A native of Hertfordshire, England, he is an assistant district attorney in Austin, Texas, where he lives with his wife and three children.

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The Paris Librarian (Hugo Marston Series #6) 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
wordsandpeace More than 1 year ago
If you enjoy mysteries and love Paris, books and libraries, you are in for a great treat. Hugo is becoming a friend of mine. I met him in The Bookseller and in The Crypt Thief. Here he is again in The Paris Librarian, investigating once again in the city of lights. Hugo, a US Embassy employee in Paris, loves old books. So when his friend Paul, director of the American Library, informs him about an upcoming library sale, he is thrilled. Alas, when he gets there, his friend is found dead. Under mysterious circumstances. So Hugo starts digging, helped by his friend Tom, a former CIA agent, and his girlfriend Claudia. Paul had a difficult past. Did he just commit suicide, or did his past came to haunt him? Miki, a journalist, friend of Merlyn, Hugo’s former colleague, has just arrived in Paris to research on special files stored somewhere in the library on American actress Isabelle Severin, who may have worked for the Resistance and even possibly killed a Nazi. Could this be connected to Paul’s demise? And then, murders multiply… I thoroughly enjoyed this new mystery by Pryor, and devoured it in no time. The author has a knack for recreating so well the ambiance of Paris, especially the streets, this time around and also in the American Library (which even has a secret door, for real!), the center of this multi-layered mystery, rich in red herrings as well. There’s plenty of dubious characters whom you are not sure you should trust or not. And it was cool spending time with the characters at Café Les Deux Magots Now, when I take notes as I read along, I insert my own ideas about the plot. So I discovered at the end that I had actually identified who did what by chapter 6 and basically how, but as usual, I had no idea why. So the suspense got be going to the very end, with its fun twists and turns.
literarymuseVC More than 1 year ago
Hugo Marston is a book collector of first editions but also a security officer at the U.S. Embassy in Paris, France. His friend, Paul Rogers, calls Hugo to tell him about a signed first edition of a Truman Capote novel. Imagine Hugo’s shock when he proceeds to the American Library in Paris to find Paul Rogers dead in a locked room. While there is an ongoing investigation there’s much annoyance from other library personnel as it seems obvious that Paul finally succumbed to his heart condition. But Hugo’s innate sensitivity believes there’s more than meets the eye and the rest of the novel follows his instincts and investigation, once again displaying Hugo’s skills and talent as a former FBI profiler. The story turns to a mysterious case of the actress Isabelle Severin who wrote letters during WWII. Some of those letters are public and some are private but the fascinating part of this mystery lies in the fact that she might have been part of the Resistance movement during WWII and might have even murdered an SS Officer with a dagger. So why is that such a secret and who would want the contents of the letters to disappear? And what does that have to do with the death of Paul Rogers? The story isn’t that complex but reading how Hugo Marston again (this is the sixth novel in this series) intelligently explores the facts and rumors behind Paul’s demise. He always displays a remarkable calmness even as he gets closer and closer to the killer and the story behind the murder. Mark Pryor excels at good old-fashioned mystery storytelling, gradually leading the reader from simple scenes into intriguing clues all the way to a very satisfying conclusion. Part of that success lies in careful characterization of Hugo and other supportive and opposing characters in the story. All in all, a riveting and intriguing international mystery sure to please mystery and thriller fans and those new to the genre. Nicely done, Mark Pryor!