Paris in the Dark ~ Kit Cobb is back
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Drawing on his own experience as a war veteran and news reporter, Pulitzer Prize Winner, Robert Olen Butler has created a thriller described as a ‘page-turner with an unmistakable literary quality’ Paris in the Dark is the fourth Kit Cobb novel and has just been released with No Exit Press.
A historical crime thriller set during the First World War, Paris in the Dark is also a novel encompassing both political and cultural issues, with Robert Olen Butler stating that it ‘digs deeper than ever into the WW1-era issues that resonate most clearly a century later’
I have my thoughts for you all here today…
Autumn 1915. The First World War is raging across Europe. Woodrow Wilson has kept Americans out of the trenches, although that hasn’t stopped young men and women from crossing the Atlantic to volunteer at the front.
Christopher Marlowe ‘Kit’ Cobb, a Chicago reporter and undercover agent for the US government is in Paris when he meets an enigmatic nurse called Louise. Officially in the city for a story about American ambulance drivers, Cobb is grateful for the opportunity to get to know her but soon his intelligence handler, James Polk Trask, extends his mission.
Parisians are meeting ‘death by dynamite’ in a new campaign of bombings, and the German-speaking Kit seems just the man to discover who is behind this – possibly a German operative who has infiltrated with the waves of refugees?
And so begins a pursuit that will test Kit Cobb, in all his roles, to the very limits of his principles, wits and talents for survival.
Paris in the Dark is the fourth Kit Cobb novel by Robert Olen Butler. I have not read his writings before so the usual trepidation set in, as always does, when you jump headlong into a series that is well established. But I needn’t have worried in the slightest. Robert Olen Butler writes in such a fashion that I didn’t feel I had missed out by not having any previous knowledge of Kit Cobb.
Set during the First World War, Paris in the Dark portrays the impact of the horrors of war on French society. For some American citizens, the initial lack of commitment by their own government, spurred them on to personally contribute in any way they could. For many this was as medical aides on the Front, as ambulance drivers and as nurses and doctors in the trauma wards of the Parisian hospitals.
Kit Cobb, or to call him by his full name, Christopher Marlowe Cobb, is a Chicago reporter who also doubles as an undercover agent for the US Government. Paris 1915 and Kit is researching for a piece about American ambulance drivers. He is intent on befriending a few of them with a plan to get nearer the Front and see for himself the valiant work these volunteers are doing. In his efforts to find out more, he becomes acquainted with an American nurse, Louise. Initially Louise is very distant with Kit but over a short period of time their relationship develops into something more. Kit and Louise become inseparable, only too aware of the transience of their lives during this time of war. There is something very fragile about their bond and Robert Olen Butler captures this beautifully in the simplicity of his descriptions.
While Kit is working in his civilian role, he is witness to a bombing in a local café, a rare occurrence during this period of war. Up to now any bombings have been airborne during a raid. This seems to have been a very targeted incident and raises a few concerns among those in the higher echelons of political circles. It’s not long before Kit is approached by his handler and he resumes his role as an undercover agent in an attempt to infiltrate this new underground cell.
There really is no other actor I can think of who could play the part of Kit Cobb. I’m sure it’s no coincidence that he is Christopher Marlowe Cobb, perhaps a salute to Philip Marlowe!!
Kit Cobb is so well characterised by the way he thinks, speaks, acts. It is so easy to visualise him in your mind; his facial expressions, his clothes, his accent…I can just see him.
As Parisiennes fear this new enemy on their doorstep, Kit begins his search for the root of these evil acts of terrorism, now termed ‘death by dynamite’. As the title of the book suggests, Kit searches down dark allies and behind closed doors in a Paris that is under curfew, a Paris that is afraid, a Paris that is in the dark. Kit is faced with the possibility of an anarchic group, identity unknown, affiliation unknown but with one agenda, to cause death and destruction on the streets of Paris.
The narrative of this book has that very classic noir feel, with Kit Cobb’s thoughts framed in that very sharp fashion, reminiscent of another era from the old Hollywood movies, leaving the reader with that satisfied feeling of having read something very authentic indeed.
Paris in the Dark is a historical thriller but it also a snapshot of a monotone Paris, a city during a time of war, when life must have felt very lacking in colour for many. There is quite an old-fashioned feel from this book which I think will appeal to the more mature reader or those who like a solid spy story. Kit Cobb is the hero and Paris in the Dark doesn’t shy away from portraying him as such. It’s traditional, it’s entertaining and it’s extremely atmospheric….overall an engaging read.
Purchase Link ~ Paris in the Dark
Bio (Courtesy of No Exit Press)
Robert Olen Butler is the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of A Good Scent from a Strange Mountain, and sixteen other novels including Hell, A Small Hotel, Perfume River, and the Christopher Marlowe Cobb series. He is also the author of six short story collections and a book on the creative process, From Where You Dream.
He has twice won a National Magazine Award in Fiction and received the 2013 F. Scott Fitzgerald Award for Outstanding Achievement in American Literature.
He teaches creative writing at Florida State University.
Website ~ https://www.robertolenbutler.com/
Twitter ~ @RobtOlenButler