I received a free copy of this book to review. However, the following review is my honest opinion.
Tension fills the air in Paris, the city still raw from WW2. Despite the atmosphere of gloom, Tommy Malloy has brought his stand-up show from America to one of Paris’ hottest clubs to try to make it big. But when one of the audience starts a fight with the KGB in the middle of the club, things start looking bad. Then, said audience member is found in Tommy’s hotel room. Dead. I don’t think this is how comedy is supposed to work.
The french police assume Tommy killed the guy (presumably for disrupting his show. Overreaction, much?) In any case, Tommy has to go on the run. Not willy-nilly, no. The dead guy gave Tommy a mission: to go to the CIA and tell them about a secret KGB plan.
With the cops on his tail for murder and the KGB on his tail for knowing things he shouldn’t, Tommy has to blend in with the Paris crowd, speak a language he barely knows, and find out where the American embassy is. If he fails, the outbreak of World War III will be his fault. I hope he has insurance.
The Quills: 8/10
[Tommy] no longer felt like a comedian; it was now 1944 again; he was back in the warzone, and his survival instincts were kicking in. […] [H]e ran over to Harry and checked for a pulse. There was none; he was already dead. Whatever game Harry had been playing, its stakes were made dangerously clear, and Tommy was now square in the middle of it.
-James Dudley, The Clown Prince of Paris
This novel is a historical spy thriller written in third person from multiple points of view. It’s meant for adults because of the voice and political subject matter, but I don’t doubt that older young adult readers can enjoy it.
Oddly, the pace of this book is quite slow. I’m accustomed to very fast, dangerous thrillers, so the fact that this novel started off with background information and character-building caught me off guard.
Although it does slow down the pace, the world-building in this novel is magnificent. The world is colourful and vibrant. The history is well-researched and is woven into the story to bring the world to life even more. The political motives are very interesting, and history nuts (like me!) will love it.
Unfortunately, the characterization was initially quite dry. The characters are described rather than brought to life. Later in the book, they become more like real people because of their actions and the choices they choose to make. However, in the beginning, they are simply given meaningless character traits that aren’t very relevant. It is also worth mentioning that there are half a million characters and the author attempts to describe each of them a bit. While an admirable effort, this slowed the pace down even further, and that’s not what thrillers should be about.
Although the writing of the book isn’t artful and elegant, it is matter-of-fact and tells the story well. There did seem to be an issue with the copy I received: quite often, the space between two words would be missing. This didn’t impede reading; it was simply a little annoying.
There was a lot of stating of the obvious which was completely unnecessary, seeing as this novel is written for adults. It even explains what a dead drop is, which is obvious to most people who have ever read this genre. It’s not bad technically to explain things, but seeing as thrillers should have high stakes, suspense, and intense pacing, this makes it less of an edge-of-your-seat read.
The Roses: 6/10
I didn’t like this book as much as I wanted to. I found the plot in the beginning quite tedious: the cops find him, he escapes and conveniently meets someone who gives him a disguise. Rinse and repeat at least 4 times. I also found it quite ridiculous (even if he was in the army) that a comedian could beat up a professional KGB tough-guy with the help of an old lady.
Because of the repeating plot and the ridiculousness of it all, I didn’t get any sense of suspense at all from this novel. None. Although thrillers are more about action, they should have some measure of suspense as well. Otherwise, it just becomes meaningless action.
I’m also not a huge fan of slapstick humour and it doesn’t work as well in a novel as it does in person. Thus, when the characters praised Tommy’s comedic brilliance, I found it overexaggerated and weird. It almost feels like this novel is trying to do too many things at once. The comedy undercuts the suspense, and the serious tone of the thriller makes the comedy seem ridiculous.
I liked the book more and more as I went along and I loved the ending, but the slow, repetitive beginning was too much for me.
Conclusion: If you don’t mind a bit of ridiculousness in your plots, give this book a go. But if you’re looking for a serious, fast-paced, suspenseful thriller, this may not be the one for you.