The Black Tower
By Louis Bayard
(William Morrow, Hardcover, 9780061173509, 368pp.)
Publication Date: September 2008
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Vidocq. The name strikes terror in the Parisian underworld of 1818. As founder and chief of a newly created plainclothes police force, Vidocq has used his mastery of disguise and surveillance to capture some of Frances most notorious and elusive criminals. Now he is hot on the trail of a tantalizing mystery—the fate of the young dauphin Louis-Charles, son of Marie-Antoinette and King Louis XVI.
Hector Carpentier, a medical student, lives with his widowed mother in her once-genteel home, now a boardinghouse, in Pariss Latin Quarter, helping the family make ends meet in the politically perilous days of the restoration. Three blocks away, a man has been murdered, and Hectors name has been found on a scrap of paper in the dead mans pocket: a case for the unparalleled deductive skills of Eugène François Vidocq, the most feared man in the Paris police. At first suspicious of Hectors role in the murder, Vidocq gradually draws him into an exhilarating—and dangerous—search that leads them to the true story of what happened to the son of the murdered royal family.
Officially, the Dauphin died a brutal death in Pariss dreaded Temple—a menacing black tower from which there could have been no escape—but speculation has long persisted that the ten-year-old heir may have been smuggled out of his prison cell. When Hector and Vidocq stumble across a man with no memory of who he is, they begin to wonder if he is the Dauphin himself, come back from the dead. Their suspicions deepen with the discovery of a diary that reveals Hectors own shocking link to the boy in the tower—and leaves him bound and determined to see justice done, no matter the cost.
In The Black Tower, Bayard deftly interweaves political intrigue, epic treachery, cover-ups, and conspiracies into a gripping portrait of family redemption—and brings to life an indelible portrait of the mighty and profane Eugène François Vidocq, historys first great detective.
“The Black Tower breathes life into the world’s first police detective, Vidocq, a literary feat that happily waited for this novelist. As the gripping and nuanced story races through the parlor rooms and back alleys of Paris, Bayard shows why he is at the forefront of literary historical fiction today.”
-Matthew Pearl, author of The Dante Club and The Poe Shadow
“In the world of historical fiction, Louis Bayard is a master at blending history into intelligent thrillers.”
“Louis Bayard repairs to Paris for another daring historical adventure. Bayard makes brilliant application of Vidocq in the fanciful adventure. No snatch–and–run researcher, Bayard takes care to capture Vidocq’s roguish voice and grandiose affectations.”
-New York Times Book Review
“A tale that has as much energy and cunning as the detective propelling it forward.”
-Christian Science Monitor
“A compelling and sympathetic narrator instantly draws the reader into Bayard’s stellar third historical. Bayard keeps the reader guessing until the end. Few writers today can match the author’s skill in devising an intelligent thriller with heart.”
-Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“Bayard doesn’t revisit the past so much as reinvent it, historically and literarily, with a great deal of style, wit and suspense. Dark, surprising and Bayard’s best example so far of a lean and accessible historical thriller.”
“Top-notch historical fiction. Bayard’s is the kind of popular fiction readers are thrilled to discover: equal parts effective plotting, lean but distinctive prose and characters and dialogue that brim with life from the outset. A royally entertaining read.”
“In his fast-moving tale, Bayard deftly places details to make history come alive.”
-Rocky Mountain News
“In addition to the many fine, quirky character portraits and the visceral depiction of a chaotic France still reeling under the regime change, Bayard offers a rip-roaring plot full of smart and funny turns.”
-Booklist (starred review)
“Louis Bayard finds fictional inspiration in historical fact. He has emerged as a writer of historical thrillers in the vein of Caleb Carr, author of The Alienist, and 19th century writers such as Alexandre Dumas, author of The Count of Monte Christo.”
-Wall Street Journal
“A fascinating detective story about one of the world’s most compelling mysteries. Bayard’s scholarly and beautiful, heart-stopping prose always keeps before us the possibility of an improbability - what mystery is all about.”
-Louisville Courier Journal
“Having previously channeled Dickens and Poe, historical novelist Bayard throws down the gauntlet to Dumas in another high-energy melodrama. The novel’s witty succession of trapdoor endings, culminating in “the quietest of abdications,” keeps surprising us. Who says they don’t write ‘em like this anymore? Long may Bayard reign.”
-Kirkus Reviews (starred)
“Delicious. [Bayard] inbues(s) his characters with real soul. You may find yourself, more than two centuries after the fact, aching over the fate of the pitiful young Dauphin. A-”
“Bayard is a fearlessly confident writer. We are treated to all of the narrative verve and sly wit—both plot twists and turns of phrase—that make his books such a pleasure to read.”