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 mysterythe 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 exhilaratingand dangeroussearch 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 Templea menacing black tower from which there could have been no escapebut 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 towerand 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 redemptionand brings to life an indelible portrait of the mighty and profane Eugène François Vidocq, historys first great detective.
Good books satisfy a reader's curiosity about plot points. Excellent books do that plus they leave a reader with more, rather than less, to ponder about life and the world we live in. Damn you, Bayard, your book with all its questions will haunt me for a long time to come. (Reviewed by Donna Chavez).
The New York Times - Marilyn Stasio
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.
Entertainment Weekly - Jennifer Reese
[W]hile Bayard handles this far-fetched material with a light touch, he also manages to imbue 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-
Starred Review. Few writers today can match the author's skill in devising an intelligent thriller with heart.
Bayard's well-crafted mix of history and suspense keeps this novel from getting bogged down in historical trivia. Recommended for all libraries.
Starred Review. The novel's witty successionof 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.
Recent Reader Reviews
Rated of 5
by Kim Excellent historical fiction I read a lot of historical fiction, and I have to admit this was one of the more enjoyable novels I’ve chanced upon in awhile (thank you, Bookbrowse!). The plot revolves around a young doctor who, through chance, becomes involved in a mystery... Read More
The Vidocq Society "Legend has it that if you give Vidocq two or three of the details
surrounding a given crime, he will give you back the man who did it---before
you've had time to blink. More than that, he'll describe the man for you, give
you his most recent address, name all his known conspirators, tell you his
favorite cheese. So compendious is his memory that a full half of Paris imagines
him to be omniscient and wonders if his powers weren't given him by Satan." -
Hector Carpentier speaking in The Black Tower.
What red-blooded criminal investigator wouldn't want to be just like the
legendary Vidocq? Count former FBI agent Bill Fleisher, co-founder of the
Vidocq Society among the Frenchman's admirers.
"When I was a Philadelphia policeman I saw Vidocq's name in one of the books we
had to read. He intrigued me," said Fleisher from his Philly office recently, "I
had a feel for this man." As Fleisher learned more about the French detective he
became even more interested...
A Man Called Intrepid author dies aged 89(Dec 03 2013) William Stevenson, a journalist and author who drew on his close ties with intelligence sources to write two best-selling books in the 1970s, A Man Called...