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Book: Baudelaire's Revenge - A Novel by Bob Van Laerhoven

Book: Baudelaire's Revenge - A Novel by Bob Van Laerhoven

categories: Book, Historical Mystery, 19th Century France, Charles Baudelaire, Franco-Prussian War, Besieged Paris, French Poetry, 19th Century Paris, Literary Crime Fiction, Literary Mystery, The French Commune, Historical Fiction

Bob Van Laerhoven

Author Bob Van Laerhovenabout this book: Paris, September 1870. The first Prussian shrapnel hit the city. The workers starve to death. The nobility seeks refuge in orgies and séances. Artists denounce the impending civil war in France and call for unity in defense against the Prussian armies. The Parisians are trapped in their besieged city. However, the horror of war is surpassed by a series of gruesome and mysterious murders which makes them forget about everyday reality. Commissioner Lefèvre, a veteran from the French-Algerian war, has to resolve these lurid crimes. On or near each of the corpses, verses out of the contentious anthology "The Flowers Of Evil" of the recently deceased Charles Baudelaire are found, written in his exact handwriting. Commissioner Lefèvre's investigation uncovers a plot with ramifications extending as far as the court of the emperor, Napoleon III. It also leads him to discover a family secret with far-reaching consequences.

Winner of the Hercule Poirot Prize for best mystery novel of the year in Belgium.

This is a novel for open-minded readers of literary mystery fiction who don't shy away from violently broken taboos and a descent into hidden crevices of the mind. "Baudelaire's Revenge" is indeed a very "French" novel that can be shocking to some readers. The now world-famous French poet Charles Baudelaire adhered to the "Decadents", a group of artists who – in an era wherein individuality for the first time began to blossom and spleen was considered as "an artist's gift" – wanted to overstep "every boundary" of the "civil society": drugs (opium, laudanum, the "green faerie" absinth), sex (Paris at that time hosted more brothels than restaurants and was moreover fascinated by the exotic) and morale. "Baudelaire's Revenge" transfers this atmosphere of moral decay – coupled with the frenzy of war. The situations may be shocking but the language à la Flaubert isn't. The novel is not meant for those who like a "light read" or for those addicted to garden variety mystery novels.

I was seventeen when I read "Les Fleurs du Mal" from Charles Baudelaire with a French-Dutch dictionary to help my rudimentary French along. I first had read the Dutch translation – Flemish, a kind of Dutch, is my mother tongue – and wanted to devour the original poems. I was so fascinated by this dark and twisted universe of the French poet that I vowed to write a novel about him. More than 33 years later, I kept my promise to myself. In 2007 I published "De wraak van Baudelaire" in The Netherlands and Belgium. "La Vengeance de Baudelaire", a French translation, was published with great success in France and the French speaking parts of Canada. A Russian, German and Italians translation is in the making. The research for this intense and detail-filled historical novel took me more than a year and I am a professional author with no day-job, so you can imagine how much effort was put into that research.

I have published (tradpub) more than 30 books in The Netherlands and Belgium, but "Baudelaire's Revenge" was the most difficult book to write. I had to overcome myself to write certain scenes – which have their roots in historical research! – because the morals of the 19th century French – and especially those of the Parisians in their besieged city – were different than modern day morals. I had to overcome serious resistance in myself before being able to write a crucial "incest" scene – without father and daughter knowing about their blood ties and even if it is unclear if the scene is a delusion from someone suffering from syphilis, or real - but Charles Baudelaire himself warned me: "If rape or arson, poison or the knife/has wove no pleasing patterns in the stuff/Of this drab canvas we accept as life/It is because we are not bold enough."

There you have it: this is a bold novel….



• (…)Paris is in an uproar in 1870. (…) The poor are hungry and insurrectional, and the decadent rich are partying. (…) In this superbly crafted Hercule Poirot Prize–winning mystery, Van Laerhoven vividly and astutely evokes a city under siege and keenly portrays the complex and controversial Baudelaire(...) (Donna Seaman - Booklink)

• "[An] intense historical crime thriller. The intricate plot, menacing atmosphere, and rich evocations of period Paris have undeniable power." (Publishers Weekly)

• The flowers of evil, sketched in lurid botanical detail…. (Kirkus Reviews)

• Lefèvre's philosophical discussions with artists and poets and a creepy Belgian dwarf are fascinating(….)(Marilyn Stasio – New York Times Book Review – Sunday crime column )

• (...) the twisted plot is as complicated as Agatha Christie's most convoluted mystery. Mystery aficionados will love this pastiche of Wilkie Collins and Edgar Allan Poe (...) - David Keymer, Modesto, CA (Library Journal).

• (...)this gritty, detail-rich historical mystery novel involves the reader in a subtle narrative web. Van Laerhoven (...) creates an eerie, fin-de-siècle atmosphere worthy of Poe, Joris-Karl Huysmans and other "decadent" writers of that era. This complex mystery joins history and literary history to create a sly, smart revenge tale. (Tom Lavoie - Shelf Awareness Pro)

• This tale is tethered to the destructive forces of war, greed, anarchy and the secrets lurking in nighttime Paris. (...) Baudelaire's dark thoughts and poetic angst, not to mention his wastrel lifestyle, permeate the novel with a sense of looming doom. (Luan Gaines - Curled Up With A Good Book)

• For those who like historical crime novels with a twist, Baudelaire's Revenge is a literary mystery that trawls through the unsavory side of human nature. (Cindy A. Matthews - Authorlink)

• If you like kinky and perverse sex, convoluted and labyrinthine plots, horrific but artfully staged murders, the alleyways and dives of Paris in 1870(..), obsession, incest, raw desire, worldly ennui, and all the other shenanigans that go on in this riveting, fascinating and "very French" mystery's "toxic abyss," then this is the book for you (...) Van Laerhoven's prose is rich and perceptive, filled with philosophical and metaphysical speculations (...) This is a terrific mystery ... (Providence Journal - Sam Coale )

• In Baudelaire's Revenge, the Prussian encirclement is merely the outer ring of hell. Many other circles spin within it (…)This is not a conventional detective novel. (…)It is less about detection and deduction than about characters revealing their dreams and despair. Van Laerhoven is after something more than the simple solution to the crime(….) Van Laerhoven has created characters whose inner lives are as darkly fascinating as Baudelaire's own poetry. (…) It is a journey worth taking to the heart of a strange, death-obsessed place where a dead poet still dwells in his writing... (William Martin - Washington Independent Review of Books)

• The seediness of the narrative, the clever constructed mystery, and the convoluted character of the novel's protagonists (...) pulled me into the dark underbelly of nineteenth century Paris. (…) Smart and well-crafted. (...) Explicit, but engaging, I greatly enjoyed the time I spent with this book. (Erin Davies – Flashlight Commentary -)

• I have to confess I did not know who the killer was. I thought I knew but I was completely wrong. I really enjoyed this book and thought that the story-line was incredibly well played out. (...) It is a dark and eerie story, but it was very satisfying. I (...) highly recommend this historical mystery.(Diana Silva – Book Nerd)

• (...)Baudelaire's Revenge was a tricky, interesting read from the first. The palpable and tense atmosphere of a Paris at war only adds to the pervading atmosphere, making this a memorable novel. (…)Despite the slim length, the mystery is a complete creation. It's convoluted and unsolvable until the author wants it solved (…) I finished this novel impressed with the authorial sleight of hand on display. (Jessie – Ageless Pages Reviews)

• Intelligent and intriguing, Baudelaire's Revenge was a historical mystery that not only had me hooked, but forced me to pay close attention as I read. I wasn't quite expecting the sensuous and seedy nature of some of the characters, but it really added to the uniqueness of what drove them to their actions. (...) The story was surprising, sad and lewd (...) Van Laerhoven has thrown in a few unexpected loops right at the end which made for an exciting closing. (Stephanie – 100 Pages a Day )

• (...) In this super atmospheric historical mystery, you will have the opportunity to meet Baudelaire's world and spirit(...) It was a world of pure madness, of insane fantasy, of sick eroticism. Following very suspenseful plots, you will discover a shocking world superbly re-crafted for you. (Words and peace)

• Van Laerhoven's sentences are so eloquent(..) full of life, dripping in details, succulent word choices, and amazing imagery. The characters were flawless in design (…) The book also deals with much of the problem of STDs that were stealing so many bodies and especially minds during that period. It worked with the book, especially given Baudelaire's own writing content (…) Historically very well-researched, Van Laerhoven really captures the climate and culture of Paris with fervent abandon and authenticity (...). This book is for readers that like to savor a book of high intellect and intent(...) It is an event, not just entertainment for an evening. (...) (Erin Al-Mehairi - Oh, for the Hook of a Book)

• What a thrilling ride back in time! Bob van Laerhoven brought 1870s Paris to life for me (...) I felt completely immersed in the history of that time and became really invested in the wonderfully written cast of characters (…) This book hit all the marks for me(...)The plot was great (...) and didn't have any lulls or stale parts. (...) Overall, there wasn't a single thing I didn't enjoy about this novel. At 288 pages Bob van Laerhoven was able to squeeze in a thrilling story that felt much longer (in a good way) because of how well written it was. (Turning the Pages- Kimberly)

• This novel took me by complete surprise. (…)What I actually read was a cross between dark mystery, an intense thinker novel, and a thriller. This isn't a novel that you can leisurely read through (...) Though it was heavy on the dark side, it was surprisingly, a refreshing read! (…) I mean that it was so full of depth and atmosphere that it was intriguing. (…) A large portion of the novel focuses on Baudelaire's life which became increasingly disturbing due to his syphilis (…) The author does a wonderful job creating the feeling of debauchery and gloom well. (…) The ending is the Crème de la Crème to be sure! (...). (The Lit Bitch)

• I read most of this book with my eyes really wide open. I was wowed by the depth of this book(...) If you're looking for a breeze through read, this is not the book for you it will work those little grey cells in the brain( ... ) And there is the intellectual prose that unravels a bizarre yet intriguing tale. If you miss all the great mystery writers like Christie and Doyle who challenge you to actually think about what it is that your reading then definitely pick up this book! (A Bookish Girl)

• (…) This isn't your average, garden-variety mystery novel. This is something quite different. Van Laerhoven has created a deeply dark, foreboding, squalid, deceptive (...) vision of Paris in 1870. But the thing is, the descriptions are such that it is almost impossible to stop reading. This dark story did draw me in -- with dread and foreboding, but I continued on. (…) It became quite an interesting experience - wondering if I would ever find out the truth. (…) Ultimately, the mysteries kept me glued to the book to the end. (A Book Geek )

• I truly enjoyed reading this fascinating novel by Van Laerhoven, kept on the end of my seat with each flip of the page. His writing is flowing and concise, lending itself well to being translated into English. I highly recommend this novel if you love mysteries on the style of Jack the Ripper, and if you like Parisian historical novels. (Kathryn Powell)

• In Belgian writer Bob Van Laerhoven's ominous, squirm-inducing Baudelaire's Revenge, two detectives investigate a series of crimes as creative and twisted as the novel's macabre plot(…). The sections featuring one unusual woman's viewpoint exert a bizarre fascination(…) With his tribute to the poet and his work, Van Laerhoven has mirrored Baudelaire's darker themes in assembling an intensely felt novel out of images of physical and moral decay. (Sarah Johnson – Reading the Past -)

• "Baudelaire's Revenge" is the kind of historical mystery that you read on a dark and stormy night where you're looking for something engrossing that might make you a little scared(….) Historical mystery is not always an automatic choice for me but I was really intrigued by the thought of a literary serial killer.(….) . Van Laerhoven's almost gothic/ horror view of Paris makes for an especially exciting setting. (Paris…) is chaotic and alive with an electric beat that you can really feel through the author's writing. This is a very exciting tale! (A Bookish Affair )

• A complex literary crime novel, based in 19th century France and revolving around the life, death and relationships of controversial poet Charles Baudelaire. This is a clever story with an unusual plot and a cast of complex and well-developed characters. It keeps you guessing right up to the last page and in truth it still had me scratching my head long after I'd read the last page(...) I am sure that many reviewers will rave over it. And I do find that my mind keeps wandering back to the story...…(Layers of Thought)

• Bob Van Laerhoven uses (….) a background of moral controversy created by Baudelaire about his work and lifestyle, as well as the historical background of the reign of emperor Napoleon III and the Franco Prussian War (...) Van Laerhoven's (...) writing is very clear – I picked up most of the historical background through reading and progressing through the book. (...)The book is not for the fainthearted, the murders are gruesome, the morals questionable, but (…) the story has a real bite and is very well written and developed (...) (Corri – 51stories)

• (Baudelaire's Revenge)… is certainly not for the faint of heart, but that is not because of the violence or sex, per se, but rather because it so provocatively examines the connections between violence and sex, life and death, love and hateful revenge. Beautifully written and deftly translated, Baudelaire's Revenge mixes the mystery of the crime novel with the sophistication of a philosophical treatise(...)(Historical Novel Society :

• Baudelaire's Revenge is packed full of delicious detail and is a multilayered historical crime drama that will weave you through the streets of Paris on the tails of a dangerous and twisted criminal(…) you feel as though you are caught up in a whirlwind. The energy of the monumental historical events such as the Franco-Prussian War and this potential rebellion, combined with the sinister murders of critics or punishers of the poet Baudelaire, charge this book with excitement and intrigue. It was an enjoyable read with a hint of science, of passion and acts that will make your cheeks blush, and the thrill of danger (…)This is a book you can lose yourself in and get wrapped up in the fast moving and ever winding story. (…) I'd say that Baudelaire's Revenge lives on my shelves somewhere between my collection of Sherlock Holmes tales and my copy of The Phantom of the Opera. (The Black Dog Speaks -

“Baudelaire’s Revenge” is the winner of the USA BEST BOOK AWARDS 2014 in the category “mystery/suspense.”

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