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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon September 13, 2008
Its 1889, and people from all over the world have come to Paris for the Exposition commemorating the centenary of the fall of the Bastille. One day, on top of the newly constructed Eiffel Tower, a woman dies, apparently of a bee sting. Later, an American naturalist dies, apparently of the same cause. There's no evidence to prove that these deaths are murder, but Victor Legris, a bookseller, sets out to solve the crime.

"Claude Izner" is the pen name of two sisters who are booksellers in Paris, so the atmosphere they evoke in this mystery is pretty authentic and detailed. I have a weakness for historical mysteries, so this book was right up my alley in that respect.

However, I couldn't get past the characters themselves. They all seem so stereotypical: the unassuming detective with a mistress in the wings, the mysterious coworker, the red-haired femme fatale. There's not much here that's original. Victor was also really dense at times when it came to obvious clues. In order for me to want to continue reading a series, I have to want to continue reading about the characters. Murder on the Eiffel Tower did not leave me with that feeling, so it's doubtful that I'll read further books in this series.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
#1 HALL OF FAMEon September 21, 2009
In 1889 while the Buffalo Bill show parades through the streets of Paris as part of World Exposition extravaganza, a rag and bone man dies from a bee sting. Soon afterward at the top of the new Eiffel Tower, Parisian bookstore owner and photographer Victor Legris watches as a woman, Eugenie Patinot, apparently dies from a bee sting.

Victor meets with his business partner Kenji Mori, his friend reporter Marius Bonnet and Russian illustrator Tasha Kherson. With a common interest to spark them, Victor and Tasha become an entry. When a third "bee sting" death occurs near the Colonial Palace, Victor investigates hoping he can write an article for Le Passe-partout.

In some ways more a historical thriller than an amateur sleuth, MURDER ON THE EIFFEL TOWER is in either case a terrific tale. Readers will be caught up with Victor's energy as he escorts the audience around Paris at an exciting time for the city. The whodunit is cleverly devised to provide fans with a strong mystery, but the entertaining story line belongs to the hero and his supporting cast especially late nineteenth century Paris at a time when technology is booming.

Harriet Klausner
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on September 12, 2008
If you love clichéd renderings of "turn of the century" types, then dig right in. If you like a jumbled mess of a plot that jumps all over the place never making any sense at all, you'll love this. I found the whole thing extremely tiresome.

A love struck --make that obsessed-- bookseller chasing after a newspaper illustrator makes up most of the plot. Based almost entirely on coincidence (but mostly because his name is in a visitor's book at the top floor of the Eiffel Tower) the bookseller suspects his boss as the murderer. Then he shifts his suspicion (based on the same absurd "reasoning") to the woman with whom he is obsessed. His "detective" work is the stuff of juvenile adventures like the Hardy Boys books (pretending to be a reporter, asking the neighbors nosy questions, etc.) It's all nonsense.

I give the book credit only for the painstakingly researched historical aspects of the Parisian exposition. That portion of the book is at least interesting and at times illuminating. The mystery plot? Mystery is a perfect word to describe the plot. It baffled me, had me scratching my head, often I would catch myself saying "What the...?" aloud. I like to be stumped or surprised with a detective story, but I would like it to have some kind of coherence. In the end, the outrageous motive for the murders is VERY 21st century. I find it hard to believe that anyone thought like that in the late 19th century. I'm really tiring of historical novels with characters whose personas and psyches are firmly planted in the future rather than in the era in which the book is supposedly set.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
What a delightful romp through 19th century Paris! Murder on the Eiffel Tower is the first in a series that shows much promise for many enjoyable future reads. Although this is a debut in the USA, two other installments have already been published in France, waiting for translation. The setting is late 1800s Paris at the time of the Worlds' Exhibition which dazzles the local Parisians with it's many marvels and wonders from around the world. At the same time we have the unveiling of the famous Eiffel Tower, both events showcasing a variety of mysterious murders thought to be caused by bee stings. To unravel these cryptic and unusual deaths comes young Victor Legris, a local Antiquarian bookseller caught up in the melee and who soon suspects his own business partner may be the murderer. The novel offers great character development, good plots with twists and turns, great historical backdrop and plenty of action and intrique to keep the reader turning the pages. Not being able to put this wonderful book down, I found it a breath of fresh air and a pure delight to read. I eagerly await book two and three which I have already ordered UK copies of. I simply cant' wait another year or more for US translations to get here. Dont' miss this sparkling debut. It's fun, it's different and darn good simple old fashioned murder mystery.
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
HALL OF FAMEVINE VOICEon September 2, 2008
Although I don't read them nearly as much as I used to, I do have a soft spot for historical mysteries -- which is what drew me to this first in a French series projected to be translated in the coming years. The story is set amidst the hustle and bustle of Paris's Exposition Universelle of 1889, which was the world's fair commemorating the 100th anniversary of the storming of the Bastille and the birth of modern France. Its chief attractions were the newly built Eiffel Tower, Buffalo Bill's Western Show, a grand hall exhibiting the latest in machinery innovations, and the various "ethnic" pavilions and streets, whose ersatz reconstructions of life from around the world were intended to drum up public support for colonialism.

The hero/sleuth of the story is Victor Legris, an eligible young bachelor who is the proprietor of a fine bookstore. When a series of unconnected people start dying of suspected bee stings, he finds himself investigating the deaths. His involvement is somewhat clumsily engineered through his friendship with a newspaper publisher and his circle of employees. Eventually, he believes that either his closest friend (a Japanese man who was his father's right-hand man), or a sexy Russian artist woman he's interested in, must be the murderer. As in so many plots of this nature, this requires a lot of people not talking to each other or saying what's on their mind -- which gets pretty old.

His investigation (and the book itself) is kind of herky-jerky and awkward, as various threads are picked up, examined, and discarded. Thankfully, the book is ripe with period color and a reasonably interesting supporting cast of characters. Unfortunately, the climactic revelation of the culprit is underwhelming and their identity more than a little ridiculous. Like all too many mystery writers, the French author creates the kind of serial killer that only exists in bad fiction. It's impossible to discuss without spoiling the plot, but the motivation for the murders is absolutely ridiculous. Moreover, the author would have us believe that a normal person can suddenly have a switch flipped and become a cold-blooded poisoner, as well as a vicious throat-slasher.

Oh well, this is supposed to be light entertainment, and it barely achieves that level. The book does well with the period detail, both in terms of descriptions and social interactions, so those who read historical mysteries for that kind of stuff might well enjoy it. However, the storytelling certainly leaves a good deal to be desired and certainly doesn't leave me hungry for the next installments in the series (The Pere-Lachaise Mystery and The Marais Assassin).
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
It's 1899, and Paris is a-buzz with the Paris Exposition and the many famous people who have come to see it, including the new Eiffel Tower. Among them is Victor Legris, a rare-books bookseller, who is contemplating whether to accept an offer to write a column for a new newspaper (with an exciting new invention called a Linotype!). But Legris is distracted by something besides a captivating redhead artist... He learns about a series of deaths, all apparently from a bee sting. And naturally, he is motivated to find out who did it.

That's a wonderful starting point for a historical mystery. So much was going on then, from scientific developments to the art society of the impressionists to cultural changes in the role of women. I fully expected to love this novel.

And yet... I did not. It's hard to say what failed, exactly, but I think it's mostly the protagonist's characterization (I never quite warmed up to him) and the author's awkward efforts to hide information from the reader; I felt cheated. (That is, Victor sees a bit of evidence, recognizes it, and we're given something like, "He recognized who was wearing that item.") So I never quite fell into the world of 1899 as I had hoped.

However, I _did_ want to know the end of the story and to learn the murderer's motives. I wandered away from the book, but I did keep coming back.

End result: If you're interested in the era, this may tickle your fancy. If you're looking for a wonderful world into which you can escape, it's only okay.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on January 19, 2013
This is the first in a fairly long series of mysteries by French author Izner set in the late 19th century and featuring Victor Legris—not quite 30 years old in this book, raised mostly in England but with a Franch mother and, toward the end, with a Japanese guardian who at the time of the book is his partner in a bookshop in Paris. On the whole I don’t think I’ll read any more in this series; my brother recommended it to me and I can see why, but I find Victor the sort of character I can’t really relate to based on the way he goes into emotional fugues with a total lack of self-control. On the other hand, I did very much enjoy the picture of Paris in 1889, with the great Expo of that year (when the Eiffel Tower was first opened to very mixed re-views). The book opens with a prologue in which a rag-and-bone man is watching Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show unloading from a train when he thinks he’s stung by a bee on the back of his neck, and then finds he can’t breathe and shortly dies. As the book goes on several other apparently unrelated characters suffer the same fate; any mystery fan will of course deduce curare from the beginning, but it takes Legris most of the book to figure it out (and the Paris police never did on their own). I suppose curare wasn’t as well-known in those days before dozens of mystery writers used it in their books, notably including Agatha Christie and John Dickson Carr. Legris suspects his Japanese partner, a Russian girl he’s infatuated with, and two or three other people until they become victims before he finally figures out whodunit. As I say, I don’t think I’ll read any more of the series, but I’m glad to have read this one. (I do wonder about some of the passages in which characters are engaging in fairly sophisticated word play—since they’re presumably speaking French Ǐ̌ suppose that this was the translator trying to give something of the feeling the original French had—not the easiest of tasks.)
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on September 19, 2008
'Murder on the Eiffel Tower' is the first Victor Legris Mystery published in the US. The author Claude Izner is pseudonym for two sisters, who like Victor Legris are booksellers in Paris. The book takes place in Paris during the famed 1889 World Exposition that presented the Eiffel Tower to the world. The Exposition Universelle was a grand world's fair of the style that died out at least 40 years ago (do they even have world's fairs anymore?). The fair featured numerous exhibits supposedly displaying authentic cultural artifacts from many nations and French colonies.

Izner takes the reader to the streets and parlors of fin de siècle Paris and this venture makes for some fairly interesting material. A greater knowledge of Paris in this era would probably make the book more enjoyable (or perhaps not - I cannot vouch for its authenticity).

The tale dabbles around the edges of the art and book world, but mostly chases the peripatetic Legris around Paris as he pursues love and murders. In addition to his duties as a bookseller, Legris hooks up with a sensationalist newssheet whose editor is driven to make a splash and uses a series of high-profile deaths that keep occurring around the exposition.

Are these just odd coincidences or murders? Well, murders, of course. But murders by whom and for what end? Legris frantically searches for clues to the murders, but also follows his business partner to see if he has a lady friend. And Legris also actively pursues his own love interest. Along the way, Legris rapidly focuses on one suspect after another. In the end, the whodunit is fairly easy to solve, but Izner kindly provides a letter from the murderer to explain why these deeds were done to neatly wrap things up. A mystery that requires a summing up is a mystery in need of editorial assistance.

Four stars is a generous rating, but the book does hold historical interest and the murders are cleverly conceived. Izner shows potential, but somebody needs to slow down Victor Legris and focus on just a few of the many items that were skimmed over in this first effort (for example,
his Japanese business partner).
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on April 7, 2010
The writing is good, the characters are only o.k. & the story line required more suspension of disbelief than I could manage.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Claude Izner (who are really two french sisters who sell second hand books in Paris) has written a first novel that should have promise. In this first book the major characters of the series are given some background story (but not too much so as to save some for later) and delineated how they will relate to one another in the coming books. The series is set in fin-de-siecle Paris with this book focusing on the 1889 Paris Exhibition for which the Eiffel Tower was built. (The title in french is "Mystery on Rue Saints-Peres" which is where Victor Legris' bookstore is located.) Victor Legris is an antique bookseller who shares his business with his father's valet/confidant, an erudite Japanese named Kenji Mori. Joseph Pignot is the assistant who seems to run the bookshop singlehanded. Tasha Kherson is an illustrator for books and newspapers who is a "new" woman who relishes her 'freedom' and is Victor's love interest.

The mystery of the title is that three people die in Paris who have all signed the "Golden Book" on the second platform of the Eiffel Tower on the same day. All are heard to exclaim before they die that they have been "stung" by a bee. For the Police in Paris, who appear sporadically, in the narrative have little to do with the story or killings since they believe the deaths are an act of Gd. Victor of course thinks there is something rotten on the Champ-de-Mars. As you can guess, at some point he solves the murders and the reason behind them are made clear, though they are something of a let down and not the best. Unfortunately, Izner spends a lot of time running Victor (and us) around chasing red herrings which make the story a little forced. As in any book, too many coincidences make the story too neat and clean at the end.

Zeb Kantrowitz
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