Book Review of the Week: Baudelaire’s Revenge

Baudelaire’s Revenge

Bob Van Laerhoven

Format: Kindle Edition

★★★★★ 5 stars

Dark and Compelling Tale of Mystery and Murder

In the world of 1870s Paris, wars are being fought on many fronts – France versus Prussia, the aristocracy versus the underprivileged, the police versus criminals felonious and petty. Police commissioner Lefevre seeks his respite in the arms of ladies of the night, and in one such venture, stumbles upon a murder that for Lefevre, commences a war against the forces of darkness and his own sanity.
At the heart of the story is the poet Charles Baudelaire, three years dead, a controversial figure for rejecting romanticism and influencing a generation of French poets. The murder Lefevre happens upon is linked to the dead poet. It’s an investigation that takes Lefevre and the reader on a unforgettable journey.
Baudelaire’s Revenge is a beautifully dark tale of many threads of history, philosophy, gastronomy and crime expertly interwoven. The author’s gift of vivid imagery expertly told transports the reader to Africa, the Orient and back to Paris’ mansions and gutters. Mysticism, idealism, incest, fraud and murder abound. It is a rich, gritty, novel ablaze with historic and literary detail that keeps the reader guessing, and entertained, to the last.

Joseph Mark Brewer is the author of the Shig Sato Mystery series. You’re invited to visit and his page at Goodreads

This Belle Rang True

Julie Harris died recently (her obituary in the New York Times is here). Some praise her as the first lady of the American theater. This I do not doubt.JulieHarris

But what I know of Ms. Harris is from William Luce’s “The Belle of Amherst,” a one-woman show about Emily Dickinson I saw on public television when I was young.

I cannot remember much of the production. What I remember is Ms. Harris brought Ms. Dickinson to life, and introduced me to poetry that was true. I had yet to see a play by Shakespeare, to hear  the cadence of words stepping toward their meaningfulness. Up to then, poetry was something I played with without knowing its power, like a child playing with matches. I had never been to poetry reading, I had yet to hear Ginsberg recite “Howl” or any meaningful rendering of Auden or cummings or O’Hara or Plath or Woolf.

What I remember from the telecast was the power of the word, the gift of the actor, the lilt of Dickinson’s verse. These things helped propel me toward words, toward storytelling, this small idea of a suitable occupation I had for myself. It has been mostly hidden under the cover of journalism, telling the stories of the lives of others in the safe recitation of facts and quotes.

But what rings true, we call poetry.

I know it because I first heard it from the lips of Ms. Harris.

For that I thank her.

A New Season

The new baseball season began last night. Baseball encompasses things central to my life: observing, reporting, storytelling, and history. It is a game to be played, to be watched, the event of each game to be retold in the days and years to come – so appealing to a writer. The season begins with spring, ends with autumn, and in the middle is glorious summer.

While watching the game on television I kept score. Not that I’m any good at it, nor would my efforts likely pass muster with my sportswriter friends. But I have been a baseball fan from the time of my first memory. I like how the game unfolds, the setbacks, the triumphs, the drama. Effort is rewarded, luck occasionally plays a role in the outcome of a game, error definitely so. But each game, each inning, each at-bat a story unto itself. Keeping track of the events is at once reporting and storytelling. At its conclusion, the game becomes a part of history.

Today is also the first day of Poetry Month. I am not a poet, know little about it except what I learned in school, which I misremember or cease to remember altogether. But I know Walt Whitman said, “I see great things in baseball.” Aside from the game being played professionally, and the professional game needing to exist at the intersection of commerce and entertainment, baseball today has not changed very much from the game played in Whitman’s 19th century America.  The game is a constant thread in the American fabric. It should be told, and has been, by better writers than me.

My life as a storyteller did not begin with baseball. And I was never very good at playing the game. But it was easy for me to see that with each season, from the littlest league to the pros, that the game, the stories of the games played, the losses and wins, and one team’s triumph at the conclusion of a season, fits into the sense of ourselves and the lives we live as we pass through our time on Earth.

And each spring I am thankful for that.