By Chuck Logan. (Conquill Press, 364 pages, $16.)
When a musician's songs all begin to sound alike, there's just one thing left to do: cut a greatest hits album. Similarly, when screenwriters exhaust their plots, they draft a prequel to cannibalize the success of their previous works. So it's no surprise that successful Stillwater author Chuck Logan has resurrected detective Phil Broker in his 10th novel, casting him as a deep-cover special forces killer seeking to reinvent himself as a cop.
Logan had a good run with the Broker character through six books from 1997 to 2006. HarperCollins figured that it was time to move on, but Logan has said his fans wanted more, so he self-published the novel "Broker" through the vanity house Conquill Press. The book stands on its own as an entertaining read.
Logan, 74, writes from experience when he portrays battle-tested Vietnam vets, and his research skills pay dividends for readers, especially for Twin Cities area residents familiar with thinly cloaked locales such as Happy's Diagnostic Center. The Stillwater garage served as the model for the auto shop where Broker goes undercover in 1979 alongside a mysterious drug dealer-turned-underworld mechanic whose employees trip across a pallet of cash "too big to steal."
While "Broker" smacks of authenticity, the character lacks some of the depth Logan gave him in earlier novels, in which he suffered the familiar aches and pains and indignities of age. Still, it wouldn't be surprising to see Hollywood pick up the rights to "Broker," given the successful treatment of Logan's earlier novel "Homefront." Sylvester Stallone wrote a screenplay based on that book, which was made into a movie by the same title in 2013 starring Jason Statham, James Franco and Winona Ryder.
City of Lights, City of Poison: Murder, Magic and the First Paris Chief of Police
By Holly Tucker. (W.W. Norton & Co., 310 pages, $26.95.)
Poisoned gloves, potions and creepy incantations give an unreal feel to this all-too-true story about 17th-century France under Louis XIV. The Sun King seems to be on a roll, winning territory in the Franco-Dutch Wars, turning a hunting lodge into the palace of Versailles and dallying with his many mistresses. Yet not far from court stirs a world of dark arts designed to bewitch lovers, remove unwanted children and dispatch annoying partners. Louis is happily unaware of this, until he learns that he may be a target. The resulting wave of arrests sets off panic throughout Paris as nobility — including two of Louis' discarded mistresses — become suspects.
Using notes kept by Paris' first chief of police and archives rescued from the Bastille, historian Holly Tucker pieces together the dragnet that puts hundreds in prison and sends dozens to grisly public deaths. She makes us uneasy witnesses to a court system in which convicts are sentenced first and tortured later, with doctors standing by to make sure they survive long enough to be properly burned to death. In a much chronicled era, Tucker finds fascinating new ground to cover.