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The Paris Enigma: A Novel Paperback – December 8, 2009

3.3 out of 5 stars 16 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Discriminating general readers as well as whodunit fans will enjoy this outstanding puzzler, winner of the first Casa de las Americas 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. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

“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.” (Wall Street Journal)

“[An] outstanding puzzler. . . . De Santis adroitly explores such issues as the difference between image and reality while providing intelligent and entertaining discussions of alternate approaches to detection.” (Publishers Weekly (starred review))

“[A] beguiling historical whodunit . .. .” (New York Times Book Review)
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial (December 8, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0061479683
  • ISBN-13: 978-0061479687
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.6 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,638,030 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
I debated whether to give this book a 3 or a 4, but in the end I liked it well enough so I went with the 4. Had I the option, I guess it would have gotten a 3.5.

Part of the problem was that the book description doesn't really describe the book, so my expectations weren't met. The only similarity to The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair that Changed America, a book I loved, was the World's Fair. The Paris Engima lacked the rich detail and history. The description promised a "series" of grisly murders, of which there were only two, and only one "grisly". Etc.

I liked the writing, and the main character, and when the story was being told the book was quite good and compelling. The problem was that there were numerous case vignettes put forth by the "Twelve Detectives" which had no bearing on the story and actually detracted from it. If the book had just told the one story, it would have been a really good novella, but a lot of what was there felt like filler, or the author wanting to put all his murder mystery ideas into one place.

Glad I read it, but I wouldn't rush out to read more of the same.
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Format: Hardcover
The witty cover of this book caught my eye when I was looking through the new releases on amazon the other day. I'm very happy I let myself be seduced by it because THE PARIS ENIGMA - the first novel to be published in English by what I understand is a young writer who's already acclaimed in his native Argentina - is quite brilliant. First of all, the setting: the Paris of 1889 that de Santis evokes is wonderfully gothic and mysterious, on the cusp of the modern age, but still full of the darkness of an earlier, less scientific, age. (The unfinished Eiffel Tower is the central symbol for this in-between state.) And then the plot: a serial killer investigation like none other you'll have come across, conducted by a cabal of the world's greatest detectives (aka The Twelve Detectives) and the novel's hero and narrator, the young assistant to one of them. It's simply a superb historical mystery, but it doesn't stop there - if you want, you can also read THE PARIS ENIGMA as a philosophical investigation into the nature of good and evil, of crime and punishment. Perfect reading for a cold winter's day!
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By A Customer on November 11, 2008
Format: Hardcover
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.

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.

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.

Harriet Klausner
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
A good story. Read it for a family book club, and we all agreed some awkwardness in the narration was probably due to translation. It starts off a bit slowly and has a huge cast of peripheral characters who are kind of hard to keep track of, but the story is good and enjoyable to read if you can get through the slow bits. Also features a bit of DiVinci Code-esque historical conspiracy theory tidbits that are worth looking into after the book.
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Format: Paperback
At the 1899 World’s Fair in Paris the Eiffel Tower is nearing completion. The twelve most famous detectives from around the world have agreed to lend an exhibition item that represents their approaches to detection. They convene, minus the Argentine detective Craig who sends his new assistant, and soon, minus the French detective who is found dead, pushed from the tower. Arzaky, the Polish/French detective, takes the lead in solving the murder, but is it really a conspiracy by the opponents of the tower? Only intermittently interesting, without enough stand-out characters, except for Greta the “invisible” acolyte and Paloma the “icy” Mermaid, but in the right hands it could be a good all-star movie or a BBC mystery.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I gave this author a good review for his Voltaire's Calligrapher. I really enjoyed it, so I bought this larger tome. Wow. Not enjoyable, not a good read. There is really no plot going on here, just endless small scenes that are so similar that the whole thing just disintegrated in my mind to a grey mush of meaningless meandering, never quite getting to the point of being interesting, or of even moving the plot along. It's always a bad sign when the reader DOESN'T CARE who killed the victim. I got to that point halfway through.
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