It’s summer in Paris and two tourists have been murdered in Père Lachaise cemetery in front of Jim Morrison’s grave. The cemetery is locked down and put under surveillance, but the killer returns, flitting in and out like a ghost, and breaks into the crypt of a long-dead Moulin Rouge dancer. In a bizarre twist, he disappears under the cover of night with part of her skeleton. One of the dead tourists is an American and the other is a woman linked to a suspected terrorist; so the US ambassador sends his best man and the embassy’s head of security—Hugo Marston—to help the French police with their investigation. When the thief breaks into another crypt at a different cemetery, stealing bones from a second famed dancer, Hugo is stumped. How does this killer operate unseen? And why is he stealing the bones of once-famous can-can girls? Hugo cracks the secrets of the graveyards but soon realizes that old bones aren’t all this killer wants. . . .
About the Author
Mark Pryor (Austin, TX) is the author of The Bookseller and The Crypt Thief, the first two Hugo Marston novels, and the true-crime book As She Lay Sleeping. An assistant district attorney with the Travis County District Attorney’s Office, in Austin, Texas, he is the creator of the true-crime blog DAConfidential. He has appeared on CBS News’s 48 Hours and Discovery Channel’s Discovery ID: Cold Blood. Visit him online at www.markpryorbooks.com, www.facebook.com/pages/Mark-Pryor-Author, and http://DAConfidential.com.
Read an Excerpt
THE CRYPT THIEF
A Hugo Marston Novel
By MARK PRYOR
Prometheus BooksCopyright © 2013Mark Pryor
All rights reserved.
The man stood still, scanning the night for movement. Seeing none, he stepped off the cobbled path and moved through a cluster of crypts, looking for a place to rest. He found four low tombs and swept a bouquet of flowers from the edge of one before sitting down. He listened for a moment then pulled a canvas bag onto his lap, reassured by the muffled clunk of the tools inside.
He rummaged in the bag and pulled out the map he'd drawn on his first visit to the cemetery, two weeks ago. Leaning forward, he pointed his headlamp at the ground before switching it on, holding the map in its yellow glow and running his eyes over the familiar lines and circles.
A breeze passed through the trees and he heard the rustle of leaves, like sighs of relief after a long, hot day. The gentle draft reached him and ruffled the page in his hand, caressed his cheek. He clicked off the lamp and looked up, savoring the coolness, and he shut his eyes for just a moment, tipping his head back so the sweat on his throat could dry.
Behind him, a scraping sound.
He looked over his shoulder at a pair of oak trees, blacker even than the moonless night, their limbs reaching out to each other like uncertain strangers, sightless branches jostling each other to touch the wind.
Taking a deep breath to relax himself, he turned his eyes to the concrete headstone at his back, suddenly curious about whose bones were beneath him. He switched his headlamp on and its light drew shadows out of the raised letters on a brass plaque. He mouthed the words James Douglas Morrison. Below the name it read, 1948–1971. A string of letters under the dates made no sense to him. Latin or Greek, perhaps.
He put the lamp and his map back into the bag and pulled out a water bottle, half empty from his long and dusty journey to this place. Two long swigs were all he allowed himself, and he put the bottle away.
He stiffened as voices drifted in from the path that he'd just left, conspiratorial whispers that wound between the stone and concrete tombs, soft words given form by the clarity of the night.
Two voices, a man and a woman.
In a moment his bag was open again, thick fingers gripping the butt of the gun he'd never used, a .22 Ruger he'd bought from a drunk outside a bar in Montmartre three months ago.
He slid the bag onto the ground and moved so he could see the path, his small feet stepping on the firm soil between patches of gravel, moving him silently between the stone slabs. As a boy, his mother had laughingly called him mon petit scarabée, my little scarab, for the way he could scuttle about the house without being seen, popping up where least expected to startle her, or, if he was there, to make his father turn red and growl.
The Scarab peered around a tall tombstone into the darkness and saw the couple coming toward him, arm in arm, heads close. They walked slowly, swaying as if they were drunk, holding each other up as their feet scuffed over the cobblestone path. They wore matching outfits: black T-shirts and camouflage pants tucked into military-style boots.
And they had no idea he was there.
He thought about letting them pass, he almost wanted to, but they made the decision for him by stopping ten yards away.
"His grave should be here," the woman said. "You have the candle?"
They were speaking English, the man thought. He spoke English, too. Un petit peu.
"Yeah, sure." The man slipped off a backpack. "Somewhere."
"This is so exciting," the woman said, her voice a stage whisper, breathless. She had olive skin and dark hair pulled back into a ponytail. Green eyes, the Scarab guessed.
He knew where they were going, where so many damn Americans went: to pay homage to a drug addict and alcoholic, a man who squandered his musical gifts and destroyed every piece of his talent with a needle. If they had the sense to recognize the power of the grave, he thought, they should have the sense to seek out those whose bones had something positive to offer.
He watched from the shadows as they stood at the edge of the path. His breath caught in his throat and he felt a stab of anxiety as he realized: They'll see my bag.
He squeezed the grip of the pistol that hung by his side, as if reminding himself of its presence. He couldn't risk them seeing his tools, raising the alarm.
He stepped out of the shadows and walked toward them, his gun parting the darkness in front of him. He trod carefully, quietly. He was the Scarab, scuttling out from between the stone tombs, unexpected and unseen until he was close enough to see their eyes widen and their mouths drop open.
He knew what they were seeing, too, and the fact that they looked at his face for so long before seeing the gun told him so. He'd seen that look when he didn't have a gun in his hand, gotten it all his life. They were seeing a man barely five feet tall, the height of a child but with the stocky build of a professional, adult wrestler. They were seeing the face he'd gotten from his father, the long thick chin under wide cheek bones, and the narrow slits for eyes that sat deep, hidden, and unreadable. Eyes that were black holes bored into the base of an unusually high forehead, which itself ended with the spirals of copper wire that sprang across the crown of his head.
He watched them as they watched him and, when they'd taken all of him in, he decided that no words were necessary. He aimed at the man, pointing the gun toward his chest, squeezing the trigger softly like he'd practiced in his apartment. Now, though, instead of a click he heard a sharp crack. Once, then a second time after he'd brought the little gun under control, and in the dark night he heard the man fall onto the cobbles of the Avenue de la Chappelle. He looked over at the woman. She seemed to be hyperventilating, with one hand clamped over her mouth, as if quieting herself would circumvent the inevitable.
He was pleased so far. Such a small gun but so effective and easy to use.
He inched his aim to the left, covering the woman, the girl, his finger firm on the trigger. It crossed his mind, for just a moment, that he could do more with her than he could with the man, exert control and make her ... do things for him.
Their eyes met and held, but not for long enough to see whether he'd been right about their color. She was looking at his gun, her mouth working silently, and then her eyes flicked back to his face as her left arm rose from her side, stiff, and she put her hand out as if she were a policewoman stopping traffic. The Scarab stared at her palm for a moment, so white in the darkness, her fingers so delicate and frail, a desperate gesture from a girl who had nothing else to offer. A spiderweb to stop a train.
He pulled the trigger, again a gentle squeeze that wouldn't mess up his aim. The crack seemed louder than before, more satisfying to the Scarab, and it sent a bullet through the middle of her palm and into her shoulder. Her hand flew up and then fell back to her side, and the girl let out a high-pitched whine as she took a step back, her head shaking in disbelief. The Scarab moved forward to see the expression on her face.
Surprise and confusion, he thought. But mostly fear.
She looked down at her hand, which released blood onto the path in a thick stream. Then she looked up, directly into his eyes, and opened her mouth wide.
The Scarab didn't wait for her to scream. He shot her again, jerking the trigger three times, knowing he couldn't miss from so close, and she crumpled to the ground without making another sound.
Excerpted from THE CRYPT THIEF by MARK PRYOR. Copyright © 2013 by Mark Pryor. Excerpted by permission of Prometheus Books.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
A word to the wise, don’t read this book alone at night. I made the grave mistake of reading it while my husband was out of town and had to call him in the middle of the night so he could talk me off the ledge. Parts of this book really gave me the heebie jeebies – especially the cemetery shootout scene. Come to think of it, this book is a good cautionary tale for staying away from cemeteries after sundown – and to sign up for a self-defense class. It’s a scary world, and I shudder at the thought of real-life Scarabs roaming the city streets. Overall, this book is one heck of a thrill ride that is sure to impress fans of fast-paced mysteries by the likes of Jeff Abbott, Harlan Coben and John Sandford. Hugo Marston is my kind of hero, one who’s willing to rush into a burning building to take down the bad guy – and risk everything to save his friends. This author has the rare ability to make sitting on my cushy couch feel like a heart-pumping chase through creepy Parisian graveyards.
Another solid outing from the author of The Bookseller. Has everything you want. Tight plot, suspense, character development. A fun read that doesn't disappoint.
I enjoy the characters, it’s what brought me back for the second book. A little disappointed regarding the mystery plot. Having said that I am going to purchase the 3rd book in the series and hope for a better mystery.
murder, law-enforcement, paris, madness, serial-killer, audiobook Hugo Marston is an exceptional investigator with a complicated past, as is his old friend Tom, and then there are Capitale Raul Garcia and reporter Claudia. They work kind of together to solve some really difficult but overlapping cases, including Tom's worsening alcoholism. The main thing is identifying and stopping a madman with a horrible agenda. Very well done! Todd McLaren is the excellent narrator for this series.
Excitement, romance, humor - very accessible to readers who haven't read the first in the series - this is book 2.
VERDICT: A chilling mystery packed with suspenseful and gruesome scenes set in famous Paris landmarks, it offers readers a unique experience of Père Lachaise cemetery! In August, I presented to you the first book in the Hugo Marston series: The Bookseller. This time, the former FBI agent has to do with a very particular type of killer. The Crypt Thief has all the elements of a chilling thriller. The book opens with a spooky scene, worthy of the whole novel: a man, preparing to steal from graves at famous Père Lachaise cemetery in Paris (see my own pictures of this remarkable city within the city!), is interrupted by two tourists. He kills them and puts a little statue on the chest of the woman. Hugo (security chief at the US embassy in Paris) is called on the case, as the victims were American. Actually, the man was none other than the son of American senator Holmes. And they soon discover that the woman was actually from the Middle East maybe. She was actually traveling under a fake passport and in the company of a man present on several terrorist watch lists! So what in the first place were these two tourists? terrorists? doing in the middle of the night in the cemetery? and why were they killed? Also, the killer leaved no trace and his way of going in and out of the cemetery seems quite mysterious. Things get even more complicated as victims multiply, apparently the work of the same man. Why would a man target mostly dead people? What’s the connection between all these bodies? The book is packed with suspenseful scenes, even though the reader can figure out rather quickly the red-herrings. It has the benefit of putting together in the same novel several major Paris landmarks, such as two famous cemeteries, the catacombs, and Le moulin rouge. There are also scenes in a quaint village in Les Pyrénées. Like in the first novel in the series, there are some neat descriptions of Paris neighborhoods. The characters are very well defined and fun to be with, well, maybe not so much the grave robber… But as a whole, I think I preferred The Bookseller, which contained a more original plot I think. Also, as the book moved along, I felt there were maybe too many unnecessary murders. Still, it’s a great read with its share of macabre and gruesome, perfect if you enjoy experience a great chill in a Paris setting!
Another great Hugo Marston novel! I'm looking forward to #3.