Black Tower (Bayard) - Book Reviews

Book Reviews
Bayard makes brilliant application of Vidocq in this fanciful adventure…No snatch-and-run researcher, Bayard takes care to capture Vidocq's roguish voice and grandiose affectations, as well as the melodramatic substance of his published memoirs.
Marilyn Stasio - New York Times


A clever follow-on from his two previous historical thrillers, Mr. Timothy and The Pale Blue Eye. Like them, The Black Tower weaves history and fiction together in the trademark style—linguistic brio, a slickly unfolding plot, a raft of colorful characters—that has propelled Bayard's work into the upper reaches of the historical-thriller league…In Bayard's hands, Vidocq becomes an arrogant, bullying, wine-swilling, foul-smelling underworld spy and master of disguise—and an utterly compelling character.
Ross King - Washington Post


(Starred review.) A compelling and sympathetic narrator instantly draws the reader into Bayard's stellar third historical detective novel. In 1818, the notorious Vidocq, a master detective who's rumored to work on both sides of the law, pulls 26-year-old Parisian doctor Hector Carpentier into a torture-murder inquiry. The victim, Chrétien Leblanc, died without revealing that he was on his way to visit Carpentier, news that comes as a complete shock to the doctor, as the dead man was a stranger to him. Vidocq soon discovers that Leblanc was actually in search of Carpentier's late father, who bore the same name. The elder Carpentier cared for Louis-Charles, Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette's young son, who died in prison in 1795. Bayard keeps the reader guessing until the end, though the puzzle aspect is less prominent than in his previous novel, The Pale Blue Eye, which featured Edgar Allan Poe as sleuth. Few writers today can match the author's skill in devising an intelligent thriller with heart.
Publishers Weekly


Bayard sets his latest historical adventure in the streets of Paris as the blood lust of the revolution subsides. It is 1818 when Vidocq, a former convict and the (real-life) founder of the newly created plainclothes investigative force known as the Sûreté, tracks down obscure medical student Hector Carpentier, whose name was found in the pocket of a dead man. As they work through the clues together, they move from the slums of Paris out to the royal gardens of Saint-Cloud. The duo soon realizes that the murders they are investigating may be connected to the whereabouts of Marie Antoinette's lost son, said to have died in the Black Tower. Then they conclude that they might have found the lost prince. As Vidocq and Carpentier fight to keep him alive, they face a dark cover-up and evil alliances that will shape the history of France. Bayard's well-crafted mix of history and suspense keeps this novel from getting bogged down in historical trivia. Recommended for all libraries.
Ron Samul - Library Journal


Having previously channeled Dickens and Poe, historical novelist Bayard throws down the gauntlet to Dumas in another high-energy melodrama. Set in early-19th-century Paris and environs, the book recounts the life-changing experience of medical student Hector Carpentier, who's enlisted by celebrated police detective Eugene Vidocq (a real historical figure) to follow clues suggesting that members of the recently restored Bourbon monarchy known to have been executed by the Jacobins who overthrew them did not include the Dauphin Louis-Charles, younger son of King Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette. A scrap of paper bearing Hector's name, a meeting with a down-at-heels baroness and an astonishing accretion of details concerning the late M. Carpentier pere, who had himself pursued a medical career, enable Vidocq to persuade the initially disbelieving Hector that his humble father, an artisan of no particular accomplishment, "might have rubbed shoulders with a Bourbon or two." Dastardly plots, thrilling last-minute rescues and escapes, the destruction by fire of the boardinghouse run by Hector's stoical mother and the mystery surrounding the docile man-child, who may be the one who might be king, are cast together in a whirligig narrative whose impertinent momentum never flags (despite the appearances of enough red herrings to overpopulate a sizable sea). Young Carpentier is a perfectly suitable unwilling (and quite sensibly unheroic) hero, and the ego-driven, Rabelaisian Vidocq drags the story along by his flaring coattails, never fearing any challenges to his wit and resourcefulness (his eccentric jocosity, however, often feels forced). The novel's witty succession of trapdoor endings, culminating (we think) in "the quietest of abdications," keeps surprising us long after it seems Bayard's plot has nowhere else to go. Who says they don't write 'em like this anymore? Long may Bayard reign.
Kirkus Reviews

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