Pub Date: April 27th, 2009, Little, Brown & Co.
Format: Hardcover, 384 pages
Source/FTC Disclosure: I received a copy of this book for review from the publisher/author in exchange for an honest review. No other compensation was received and my opinions are my own.
Turn-of-the-century Paris was the beating heart of a rapidly changing world. Painters, scientists, revolutionaries, poets--all were there. But so, too, were the shadows: Paris was a violent, criminal place, its sinister alleyways the haunts of Apache gangsters and its cafes the gathering places of murderous anarchists. In 1911, it fell victim to perhaps the greatest theft of all time--the taking of the Mona Lisa from the Louvre. Immediately, Alphonse Bertillon, a detective world-renowned for pioneering crime-scene investigation techniques, was called upon to solve the crime. And quickly the Paris police had a suspect: a young Spanish artist named Pablo Picasso....
First off, thanks to the kind folks at Hachette Book Group for sending me an advance copy of this book to review! Keep on reading, there's a giveaway to follow the review!
I have to come right out and say that I rarely read nonfictional works, which is a little embarrassing for me to admit, but there you have it. But when I read about The Crimes of Paris I was intrigued and thought I would give it a shot--it would make a great review for Mystery Mondays! My initial reaction: I wish the book was more like what the dust jacket portrays it to be: an account of the true story of the theft of the Mona Lisa from the Louvre in 1911. That story is there, but it is drawn out through the entire book, along with accounts of other crimes that have tenuous ties (at best) to the theft of the Mona Lisa.
That being said, it was a very interesting read on Paris and its crimes in the early 20th century. Until reading this book, I had no idea that Paris had once been a hotbed of criminal activity, ultimately leading to many advancements in police work and detection coming from the City of Light. To me, that was one of the more interesting aspects of the book, along with the story of the Mona Lisa. One thing I have to say with regards to that theft: it was never clear to me that Picasso was actually a suspect, as the synopsis implies. He was brought in for questioning, but it was in reference to a friend of his that had been arrested.
So, if you are expecting this book to be solely about the theft of the Mona Lisa, you may be disappointed. I found that I grew tired of reading about various criminals and their capers, though some of the stories were certainly more interesting than others. The Crimes of Paris was also an interesting study of the people of Paris in the early 1900's--I never knew how fascinated they were by crime and how much they sympathized with the criminals while distrusting the police. This fascination led to a profusion of literary and dramatic works revolving around crime and detection--this was the era when the true detective stories really began.
Other reviews of The Crimes of Paris:
A Girl Walks Into a Bookstore
The Biblio Brat
Books Love Jessica Marie
And now for the GIVEAWAY!!
The ever-generous group at Hachette Books is letting me give away FIVE copies of The Crimes of Paris! This copy is open to the U.S. and Canada only, and sorry, no P.O. boxes. You also must be at least 18 years of age to be eligible to enter.
To enter, all you have to do is:
~ Leave a comment with a valid email address
~ For a second entry, become a follower and let me know you are one in the comment below
~ If you are already a follower, let me know--that's TWO additional entries
This contest is open until 11:59pm on Sunday, April 26th. I will let Random.org choose the winners and announce them on Monday, April 27th.