Hugo Marston is a former American FBI agent now working as the head of security for the US Embassy in Paris. Max is a bookstall owner along the Seine. Hugo and Max are more than acquaintances, but Hugo knows little about Max beyond his work selling books. So when Hugo is forced to stand by helplessly as Max is kidnapped, he has little information to help a police investigation. And when the police seem to brush off Max's disappearance, Hugo takes it upon himself to find out what happened to his friend.
Along the way, Hugo enlists the help and resources of his old friend and Quantico roommate Tom Green, a semi-retired CIA agent, and Claudia Roux, a French journalist. When the three begin digging, they find only more unanswered questions leading in very strange directions. Meanwhile, other bookstall owners start disappearing. Hugo is determined to unravel the mystery and exact justice, but when he becomes the next target, can he stay alive long enough to do so?
The Bookseller is Mark Pryor's debut novel and the debut of Seventh Street Books imprint. Pryor has devised a smart, complex plot around the bookstall owners. And the plot works its way out from the bookstall owners. Readers may want to drop breadcrumbs along the way because The Bookseller is far from a basic straight path between crime and solution.
Pryor's obvious love of Paris comes through in his use of the beautiful city against the ugliness of corruption and murder. Having never visited France, I felt as though I knew the environment intimately by the end of the novel.
Pryor's greatest strength in his first novel is definitely his cast of characters. Hugo is a rather straight-laced sort of investigator, surrounded by a kaleidoscope of supporting roles. Tom is a brazen, alcoholic but would go to the ends of the world for Hugo. Emma is Hugo's witty, smart and sometimes smart alack assistant. Claudia's father Gérard de Roussillon is unpredictable, fascinating and endearing. While some of the other characters, such as the US Ambassador, had more of a flatness to them, one can't help but wonder if their dimension will be brought out in future installments of the series.
Dialogue at times seemed awkward or forced, but Pryor's use of French words and phrases throughout the novel were well used. He trusts his reader to understand from context and doesn't feel the need to literally translate each one.
The Bookseller is an impressive debut and shows great potential for a fun series with characters readers will be looking forward to seeing again and again.
The Bookseller is available in trade paperback (ISBN: 9781616147082) from Seventh Street Books.