The Black Tower
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The Black Tower

3.73 of 5 stars 3.73  ·  rating details  ·  2,384 ratings  ·  360 reviews
Vidocq! Master of disguise and chief of a newly created plainclothes police force, Vidocq is a man whose name sends terror rippling through the Parisian underworld of 1818—and the inconsequential life of Hector Carpentier is violently shaken when Vidocq storms into it. A former medical student living in his mother's Latin Quarter boardinghouse, Hector finds himself dragged...more
Audio CD, 352 pages
Published September 1st 2008 by Blackstone Audiobooks (first published 2008)
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Will Byrnes
Bayard likes to take on old authors and have some fun with their worlds. In this case he is channeling Dumas in a fun mystery/adventure set in 19th century Paris. Scars from the Revolution still bleed. Napoleon has had his Waterloo and the monarchy has been restored. But who is the rightful heir to the aging Louis the 18th?

Our hero, narrator and everyman is Hector Carpentier, a doctor of venereology, who lives a stunted life at his parental home, a survivor among many of the trials of revolutio...more
_The Black Tower_ by Louis Bayard is a very enjoyable historical fiction/mystery set in Paris and its environs during the period of the Bourban Bourbon Restoration, with numerous flashbacks to the Terror of the Revolution. It is a period of huge turmoil and horror for France, where hope and possibility were mingled with despair and the worst elements of the human heart. The story proper begins as the narrator, Dr. Hector Carpentier, recalls for us what is perhaps the most eventful period of his...more
The Black Tower by Louis Bayard (pp. 400)

Bayard tells the story of the possible lost King of France (Louis-Charles) during the Restoration through the exploits of Vidocq, the famous and feared chief of the newly established undercover police force and a Parisian doctor. As historical fiction goes, Bayard balances the details of the period, plausibility, and moving the plot along better than most. The French Revolution and fast-moving, enjoyable fiction are not two ideas that I find go well toget...more
Jann Barber
I realize this is my second 5-star review in a row, but this book deserves it! I have never read anything by Bayard before, although "Mr. Timothy" has been on my book shelves for at least a year.

Reading this book was like unstacking a set of Russian nesting dolls. There were stories within stories, and plenty of twists and turns. I enjoy books that keep me guessing until the end...and even after I've turned the final page. This was one of those books.

I found the character of Vidocq to be fascina...more
I think that I like historical fiction, but maybe I really don’t. There are a number of things that are almost inevitably true in historical fiction that drive me absolutely up the wall:

There’s always a character (often the protagonist) who is wise beyond his time period
Someone famous wanders through the plot, no matter how improbably
No one really sounds like they’re actually from the period in which they’re living
The Black Tower is about an amazingly prescient proto-detective and his amazingly...more
Generally historical fiction is not my first pick on the bookshelf. But I've been hearing good things about Louis Bayard's latest books, so wanted to check one out for myself. This one is really fascinating. The main character is Eugene Francois Vidocq, the founder of the Surete Nationale--the first professional police force. I've read his biography so I was skeptical about how he would be presented in the book. A total bull's eye. The story is told by a young medical student, Hector Capentier,...more
Bob H
It's Paris in 1818, and Hector Carpentier, the first-person narrator, is involved in a shabby murder that attracts the attention of Eugene Vidocq, ex-convict and now master detective. From this point on, Vidocq pulls Carpentier through a rainy and sordid Paris as this murder investigation leads to another mystery, that of Marie Antoinette's son, Louis-Charles (Louis XVII) who had died in prison during the Revolution. Or did he?

The novel is a masterpiece, an evocation of the worn-down Paris of th...more
Paul Pessolano
As in his first book, "The Pale Blue Eye", Bayard takes some liberty with historical events and builds a mystery around them. In "The Pale Blue Eye" he used Edgar Allen Poe as his focal point. In "The Black Tower" he uses the Lost King of France, Louis XVIII as his catalyst for this mystery.

When Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette were executed, their son was imprisoned at eight years old. He was never let out of his cell, his body and clothing were infested with lice, he was given slop to eat, and w...more
I finished The Black Tower by Louis Bayard. This is the first of his books I have read.

It has the crass multi faceted Vidocq the father of modern investigative techniques, teaming up with the young Dr. Carpentier whose father was Physician to the children of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette while they were imprisoned in the Temple.

Called to investigate the murder of a man with Dr. Carpentiers name and address found with the body, Vidocq finds he is not just investigating a murder but the possibi...more
Catherine Delors
The setting is 1818 Paris. The Bourbons have been unsteadily restored to the throne of France after the successive upheavals of the Revolution and Napoleon's reign. The novel features no less a character than the legendary (yet historical) convict turned detective Vidocq.

The narrator, naive medical student Hector Carpentier, crosses Vidocq's path, and also that of a young man who might be Louis XVII, the son of Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette. Hector will soon come to understand that there is no...more
I guess you would call this a historical mystery. Set in France, the book is more than a little dark but if you love words and the beauty they can create inside your head, you've got to like this book. Amazing how a really good writer can make almost anything palatable. There is humor here and lovely almost poetic passages. The end is a bit unresolved. The one the reader has been sure was Charles seems not to have been. Or was he? I like to think he was and somehow the dangling ends here don't b...more
Read this mostly because it was set in the same neighborhood where I stay when I'm in Paris--in fact the protagonist lives on the same street as the apartment where I stay.

After Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette were killed, their children lived on for some time in the black tower of the Temple. Eventually, the Dauphin, he who would have been Louis XVII, died. Or did he? That's the premise of the novel. The story itself is all right, but not especially brilliant. Mostly I liked seeing and reading a...more
3.5 stars. Exciting but disappointing. A fun story full of twists and turns; Vidocq saves the book. But anachronistic vocabulary keeps jarring the reader out of the story. Twenty-first century slang just doesn't sound right coming from the lips of nineteenth century Parisians.

Bayard might have consulted The Moonstone, Bleak House or Les Misérables to get the atmosphere more right.
I'm glad that I read this in audiobook format. Not only is Simon Vance a wonderful narrator but his voice is perfect for historical fiction. Also, I know my weaknesses and at several tense points in the story I would have been very tempted to "peek" at the end if I were reading a traditional book. Ultimately that would have spoiled a lot of my enjoyment of the book because Bayard leaves the events of his story open to (at least) three different interpretations by the reader, adding layers of pos...more
Tara Lynn
I love historical crime novels as a rule, but I think that the writing style of this one may have kept me from enjoying it as much as I would have liked. If you're looking for a great recommendation in this genre, I'd suggest The Alienist, by Caleb Carr. the story itself is phenomenal, and the characters are so memorable that I was bitterly disappointed to find out that he'd only done two books featuring that cast of characters. His research is also immaculate, and while reading the book you oft...more
Clare Cannon
Not as exciting as I expected, but a short mystery about the young boy Louis XVII who had supposedly died as a captive in the black tower after the French revolution. It is evenly paced and the mystery builds consistently and is relatively engaging, but overall it is not a thrilling read, nor complex enough to afford any deep historical insights. Characters are steady but not developed enough to make you care about them. There is frequent bad language and rough talk throughout, as well as a few...more
"D'you know," he said - he was staring into his cup, I remember - "there's one thing I can never really forgive myself for." I asked him what that was, and he said: "I actually believed that one boy's life was worth more than another's." And before we parted that morning, he said one more thing. He said, "It's true what you used to tell me, Junius. I am no republican."

There was once a boy-king who was held prisoner in a black tower - waiting for death. And his doctor came up with a plan.

Time di...more
How I like Louis Bayard. This book was especially fun because it introduced me to Vidocq, a convict who founded the Surete in Paris. The mystery is about the 'lost king,' Louis XVII. The plot holds one's attention and the characters are terrific. I am going to read the two remaining published books of Bayard, which are not mysteries, it seems. And I look forward to whatever his next contribution will be. I hope it arrives soon!
This was not a style of story I enjoy. It came across as a very large newspaper article that left me feeling nothing for the characters, no love or hate, no interest or empathy.

I am also not a big fan of conspiracy theory story lines.
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
What ever really happened to Louis the seventeenth? As mystery has always clouded the untimely death of the Dauphin, Louis Bayard finds room for a fascinating story. Weaving fact and fiction, Bayard tells of the investigation that Vidoque and Hector Carpentier embark upon following the death of LeBlanc (a man who just so happened to have been one of the rare few who had contact with the Dauphin during his final days in the Black Tower). As one clue leads them to another, the pieces form a startl...more
Laura C.
I'm not sure if I loved this book so much because it was really wonderful, or if it was read so wonderfully by Simon Vance. In any case, it is a historical mystery featuring a truly modern detective (read suspend belief, but in the best way) who tackles one of history's mysteries in such a charming manner. Louis XVI and his unfortunate wife Marie Antoinette went to the guillotine during the French revolution. Their son and heir,the Dauphine Louis Charles, supposedly perished in the famous black...more
Saskia Marijke Niehorster-Cook
I gave this book to my husband for Christmas. After reading the prologue, he decided he did not want to read it, so I gave it a try. After reading it myself, I decided not to read it either, but one long day when I had a long wait somewhere, I took it to distract myself and got caught up in it. Thankfully, the prologue is the worst part of it, and describes the condition of a child that has been locked up in a prison tower simply because he is the son of the king of France, and explains the tota...more
This was a book I wanted to read since I first saw a review for it because it’s about Vidoq, who is pretty much the first forensic examiner/modern detective. There’s the Vidoq Society still solving crimes today. Also, I like historical fiction so it pains me to say this was briefly good piece of work sandwiched between utter crap.

The premise is Dr. Hector Carpentier comes to Vidoq’s attention after his name turns up in a dead man’s possession. Hector is the one telling the tale. Unfortunately he...more
Louis Bayard writes an interesting piece of historical fiction by revisiting an age old question: What really happened to the young dauphin son of Marie-Antionette? Presumed dead by the hands of revolutionaries, but body never found, Bayard takes the stuff of myths, and weaves a great piece of fiction that involves intrigue, conspiracy and incredibly good character depiction. I loved the character Chief officer Vidocq, whose mind tracks the possibility of the son's existence, but adds sharp narr...more
History, conspiracy theories and intrigue, all rolled up into one novel. The characters in this story, both real and fictional, were interesting, amusing and frustrating, all at once.

I'd read about Vidocq before, but nothing that really got me interested in him or his legacy...until this book. The Vidocq that the author presents here is intelligent, humorous, lucky and alarmingly humble. I was expecting a personality far more, I don't know, in your face, than what was written, and though his pe...more
Titus Burley
As a character in this wonderfully told tale might have exclaimed in piquancy, awe, or even frustration, "Vidocq!" It's a good sign for a reader when one has reached the hundred page mark in a novel and begins eyeing the page in front of the half title page to find out what other books a particular author has penned. It's even a better sign when the reader plots to acquire and read them. So it is with fellow Louis Bayard. Having read and thoroughly enjoyed "The Black Tower" I will certainly stoc...more
This ended up being a much better than expected historical fiction mystery. It's 1818 in Paris. The Bourbon monarchy has just been restored, and no one wants to talk about the revolution, the terror, or the little Corsican now imprisoned on Elba. But when a man is murdered with the name and address of Hector Carpentier on a piece of paper secreted in his underwear, Hector finds himself drawn into a mystery that opens a lot of the old wounds. While the young medical student swears he didn't know...more
Oct 16, 2008 Isabel rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: People who like historical novels
Shelves: history, fiction
The begining of the XIX century found France trying to put itself together again. Things changed from day to day, almost nothing was certain. But to be visited by one of the most famous police inspectors was not very good news. When Hector Carpentier opens the door to Vidocq not even in his strangest dreams would he have imagined the journey in front of him. A dead man with his name in his hand, a very strange murder so close to his house. Ties to the royal family long ago encarcerated, their lu...more
Pete Jones
I found this very enjoyable, though it’s not quite what I expected. I was drawn into it by the review from USA Today (I know, not the most authoritative book reviews for elite readers). The review said, “In the world of historical fiction, Louis Bayard is a master at blending history into intelligent thrillers.” Other than the last couple of chapters that span the denouement, this is not a thriller but rather a mystery.

This could have been written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. But rather than Londo...more
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Black Tower 4 33 Nov 19, 2012 09:37AM  
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  • City of Shadows
  • The Anatomy of Deception
  • The Unquiet Bones (Hugh de Singleton, Surgeon Chronicles #1)
  • Instruments of Darkness (Crowther and Westerman, #1)
  • To Kingdom Come (Barker & Llewelyn, #2)
  • The Devil's Company (Benjamin Weaver, #3)
  • The Minutes of the Lazarus Club
  • The American Boy
  • Annette Vallon: A Novel of the French Revolution
  • The Glass of Time (The Meaning of Night, #2)
  • The Rhetoric of Death
  • Kept
  • The Cavalier of the Apocalypse (Aristide Ravel, #1)
  • The Blackest Bird
  • Veil of Lies (Crispin Guest, #1)
  • A Catch of Consequence
  • Dust and Shadow: An Account of the Ripper Killings by Dr. John H. Watson
A staff writer for, Bayard has written articles and reviews for the New York Times, the Washington Post,, and Preservation, among others. Bayard lives in Washington, D.C.
More about Louis Bayard...
The Pale Blue Eye Mr. Timothy The School of Night Roosevelt's Beast Fool's Errand

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“I'm a man of a certain age - old enough to have been every kind of fool- and I find to my surprise that the only counsel I have to pass on is this: Never let your name be found in a dead man's trousers.” 5 likes
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