The Blood Promise - Mark Pryor, Cary Grant & James BondMonday, February 17, 2014
There is an event happening at home that I could have never predicted. After having seen 18 episodes of the Italian-made series Montalbano based on the novels of Andrea Camilleri (I have read all of the books, 16 that have been translated from the Italian) with Rosemary, my wife, she is now on her fourth Camilleri novel. She is reading one per night.
Now this does not mean that Camilleri’s novels are lightweight. The man from Porto Empedocle, Sicily is 89 but his style reads like new-wave noir (I just invented the term) and consider that the old man wrote his first Salvo Montalbano novel La forma dell'acqua in 1994 when he was 69. And he has written 20 more!
No there are mystery novels in which the principal protagonist suffers existential angst, a Chandler Marlowe or Leonardo Padura’s troubled Havana detective Mario Conde. The same could be said of Pepe Carvalho, the book burning detective of Manuel Vázquez Montalbán. Vázquez Montalbán wrote 13 of these (the best is the exquisite Quinteto de Buenos Aires which is one of the best ever novels about a most real Buenos Aires).
Like Gregory Peck’s acting, when you read Camilleri you must imagine what is going in Salvo Montalbanos complex mind. The TV series, most faithful to the books take more time but do not reveal much more of our detective who likes to eat and swim alone.
All the above is my prelude in raving about Mark Pryor’s third novel, The Blood Promise, featuring the head of security at the American Embassy in Paris, Hugo Marston.
The very Texan Marston as written by the very British but Austin, Texas resident (he is an Assistant District Attorney of Travis County) author seems to have few hang-ups. His protagonist as described by his much more complex Tom Green, ex-FBI and active CIA agent (his only competition for being a recovering, not always, drunkard is James Le Burke’s Dave Robicheaux):
Tom knew that his own brain was pretty efficient in a crunch, and the truth was that Hugo had been one of the first guys he’d known to keep up with him on that score. And Tom was fine with having an intellectual equal. What he wasn’t fine was the fact that this particular equal looked like Cary Grant and acted like James Bond, but didn’t know how to be anything but modest. Very fucking annoying, and a complete waste of chick magnetism, as far as Tom was concerned.
New in this third novel, like the others based in Paris, is a man-turned-woman (and who likes girls) who is now a member of the Paris Police. She works with that other Marston friend Raúl García whose family was originally from Barcelona.
The plot in The Blood Promise involves a Xenophobic US senator, a huge Château and Marie Antoinette. There are a few gruesome murders as it would seem that Pryor has seen a few of them in his job as an Assistant DA in that gun-toting state of Texas.
And you know that Pryor’s British demeanor is beginning to fade as he uses that term of my youth in Austin, in the 50s, a piece of tail.
But the excitement that I got from turning one page to another is all there and while I cannot compete with Rosemary’s speed with Camilleri, I can assure you that at the very least Blood Promise is at the most a two-night read.
I must happily reaffirm that the well-adjusted Marston almost reminds me of James Bond (not as slick, he is Texan after all!) and I think the world of literature needs more James Bonds.
But this does not mean that you do not learn a few important things during the fast ride through multiple-padlocked Paris bridges (read The Blood Promise to find out what I mean by that). Consider that you may not know who Sebastian Melmoth was. Do you?
After Oscar Wilde’s buggery scandal which occurred at the Cadogan Hotel (I slept in that hotel once!) he thought that changing his name might help. It didn’t. Sebastian Melmoth is a combination of Saint Sebastian and Melmoth a protagonist of Melmoth the Wanderer a gothic novel by his great uncle Charles Maturin.
What is especially appealing to me is that Marston and his CIA buddy use the latest of techniques, DNA swabs, bugging devices, and even a British professional dominatrix to help solve clues. And there is another charmer here. James Lee Burke has his 12-step protagonist describe in great detail the condensation on a large glass of Jax Beer that he cannot or must not drink. Pryor does one better. Marston, believes that by not having booze in the apartment that he shares with Tom Green that the latter will not be tempted. And when they dine in fine Paris Cafes where Green orders mineral water, Marston feels guilty in ordering anything alcoholic. The best part is that Greens knows this and enjoys it to the hilt.
I hope Pryor writes a fourth novel soon and that he manages to return a tired Hugo Marsten on leave to Austin where suddenly…