This week’s book crush takes place at Avellino’s. A tiny coffee-shop tucked into the battery of shops along Railroad Ave in downtown Bellingham, with some very good tea as well as coffee. It reminds me a bit of the tea shop I frequented on Lower Goat Ln in Norwich.
Velvety-chairs tucked here and there and a relaxed array of personable and interesting baristas. (What do you call tea-shop ladies, can I call them baristas also? Ah well...) They also take their baked good quite seriously.
I’m not sure who does the baking, but I’ve been quite impressed to date. The flavors are interesting and the texture often revelatory. (Wait did I just say that? Some people are so silly about baked goods.)
But while I’m in transports, lets turn them in a literary direction. My dear husband drove with me down to Mill Creek on a weeknight recently just so that I could meet one of my favorite mystery authors…. Laurie King! If you like mysteries, and you haven’t read Laurie King yet, run to your nearest bookstore and pick up whichever of her novels you can find.
Readers, she was just as dynamic in person as is her prose on the page. We talked with her afterwards, and she was everything that is gracious and funny and charming. It was thrilling and husband made me go back and get a picture with her which is how I have this to share with you.
I was quite excited when I saw the title of her latest book “The Bones of Paris” online. Set in Paris? Something to do with the catacombs perhaps? It seemed to be a perfect autumn read.
The book that precedes this, originally intended to be a stand-alone, was one of the few Laurie King novels that I hadn’t read yet. So, I read ‘Touchstone’ before starting ‘The Bones of Paris’. I won’t go into that book here, (do read it, fantastic) but just to say that it introduces Harry Stuyvesent- hard-boiled detective with a soft spot for things/persons smaller than him. As ‘The Bones of Paris’ opens, we find him in a considerably darker place than the previous novel. Not to say that his life was sunshine and light during ‘Touchstone’.
Nonetheless his brother, for whose misfortunes he blames himself, has passed on. Harry’s grieving and stuck in a bit of a holding pattern in Europe. Waiting to hear from, we realize as the novel progresses, a formidable young women he met as part of the tumultuous events of ‘Touchstone’.
Paris is tired. This is not the sparkling city of ‘Midnight in Paris’. Rather, this is the Paris of hangers-on, the seedy underbelly of creativity, the hot summer hangover of a spring of intellectualism. Harry is not having an easy time of it. He is trying to track down a girl named Pip Crosby with whom he had a brief affair. Her family, who are unaware of his past with her, has hired him to investigate her disappearance. But it isn’t just that, Harry feels he has wronged Pip and is desperate to find her.
He stumbles past Man-Ray, Hemingway and other legendary luminaries. They glance off the sharp edges of this grim tale rather than being the focus. The center of this tale is actually the American girls who seem to arrive in Paris in droves to disappear into the ‘art scene’. From Mimi to Kitty to Lulu to Pip, all eerily diminutive names, Harris is haunted by their seemingly disposable nature to the art movement that places them in the role of muse, while it seeks to abuse and humiliate them simultaneously.
I sincerely enjoyed this novel. King delivers rich if often disturbing imagery, along with skillful character development and tightly-woven prose that is beautiful in its own right.
If you do read this, which I highly recommend you do, please drop me a line. I’d love to hear your thoughts on it!