(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

A classic whodunit, an accurate period piece, and a book filled with literary allusions—MASQUERADE is set in Paris in 1923. The sequel to Walter Satterthwait’s ESCAPADE (1995), this fast-paced murder mystery reunites American Phil Beaumont, a hard-boiled Pinkerton, and British Jane Turner, a newly-arrived Pinkerton working undercover as a governess. Their goal is to investigate the mysterious death of Richard Forsythe, a wealthy American publisher whose body was discovered in a locked hotel room with his equally dead German mistress. Paris police claim a suicide pact; Phil and Jane believe otherwise. And so they investigate—thwarted in their efforts by the Paris version of the Keystone Cops—and travel through all parts of Paris en route to their destination and the solution of the mystery.

Their adventures include visits to artistic salons, Gertrude Stein’s being one of the most memorable, trips through the sewers of Paris and to its catacombs and cemeteries, sumptuous meals at French restaurants, and appearances by American expatriates like Stein and Ernest Hemingway (“call me Ernie”), and their European counterparts: James Joyce, Pablo Picasso, and Juan Gris, to name a few.

This story of Paris in the 1920’s, the perfect place for the perfect murder, has a double perspective, with chapters narrated by Beaumont juxtaposed with letters written by Jane to her friend Evy. Detached, objective Beaumont relates the facts, while the more emotional and much more literary Jane offers details, context, and an interpretation of these facts. Together, the perspectives complement each other—just as the two Pinkertons do in their investigation of the murderous masquerade—and together they tell a witty, frequently hilarious, story, mesmerizing from Jane’s opening letter to the unexpected and delicious twist at the end.