Paris in the Dark: A Christopher Marlowe Cobb Thriller

Robert Olen Butler. Mysterious, $26 (240p) ISBN 978-0-8021-2837-9

In Butler’s flawed fifth outing for Christopher “Kit” Cobb (after 2014’s The Empire of Night), the Chicago newspaperman who doubles as an American spy, investigates a series of seemingly random bombings in Paris in the autumn of 1915. Kit, who’s in Paris to write a feature story on American ambulance drivers, suspects the culprits could be among the many refugees flooding into the city to avoid the war in the countryside. Slowly, however, his focus shifts to a different group of saboteurs: American terrorists seeking to coax the U.S. into the conflict. Though Butler effectively captures the social flavor and visuals of WWI-era Paris, thriller readers accustomed to logic and procedure will be frustrated. Kit, for instance, never visits the scene of a bombing or interviews witnesses, and the finale takes place in that old chestnut, the Catacombs, where the bombers have inexplicably holed up to build their next explosive device. Series fans who don’t mind melodrama and the sometimes lead-footed tempo will be satisfied. Agent: Warren Frazier, John Hawkins & Assoc. (Sept.)