Hugo Marston must figure out what lies hidden inside an old sailor's chest before a 200-year-old blood promise is revealed and claims another life.
In post-Revolution Paris, an old man signs a letter in blood, then hides it in a secret compartment in a sailor's chest. A messenger arrives to transport the chest and its hidden contents, but then the plague strikes and an untimely death changes history.
Two hundred years later, Hugo Marston is safeguarding an unpredictable but popular senator who is in Paris negotiating a France/U.S. dispute. The talks, held at a country chateau, collapse when the senator accuses someone of breaking into his room. Theft becomes the least of Hugo's concerns when someone discovers a sailor's chest and the secrets hidden within, and decides that the power and money they promise are worth killing for.
But when the darkness of history is unleashed, even the most ruthless and cunning are powerless to control it.
Praise for The Blood Promise:
“Mark Pryor is one of the smartest new writers on the block. His new novel is a doozy.”
—Philip Kerr, author of A Man Without Breath, a Bernie Gunther novel
"Pryor seems to have hit his stride in this series, as he adroitly juxtaposes the light banter between Marston and Green with some scenes of intense emotion.... And, all the while, the suspense ramps up. Top-notch mystery in a skillfully delineated Parisian setting."
Praise for previous Hugo Marston novels:
"[I]n Pryor’s propulsive second novel starring affable former FBI profiler Hugo Marston…. The engaging characters sweep readers into a suspenseful chase from Pigalle to the Pyrenées."
“The Crypt Thief is an eerily good read. Mark Pryor has crafted another chilling, complex, and compelling story. Don’t start it if you need a good night’s sleep!”
—Allison Leotta, author of Speak of the Devil
“A complex puzzle, genuine suspense, and a compelling protagonist—what more can any reader ask for? Oh yeah, a great location: Paris. I’m sold.”
—Michael Robotham, author of Say You’re Sorry
"Pryor's steady and engrossing debut combines Sherlockian puzzle solving with Eric Ambler–like spy intrigue. With a cast of characters you want to know better. . . ."
—Library Journal Starred Review and Debut of the Month!
"A tale of a city that's gritty, utterly real and filled with surprises both horrifying and tender. Much like a baguette, this fabulous story is crusty on the outside, sweet on the inside, and once you've had a bit, you can't wait for more."
"Enough intrigue to satisfy every reader…. A fantastic debut!"
—RT Book Reviews
"The Hugo Marston series now belongs on every espionage fan’s watch list."
About the Guide
A Note from Author Mark Pryor
As you may have guessed from my focus, in The Bookseller and The Crypt Thief, on old books and Paris’s cemeteries, I love history. Not just the happenings of the past, as interesting as they may be, but the way history comes back to either touch us, or in some cases haunt us. It’s a little like when you tell a lie, you have to tell another and another to cover up the first. The lies keep getting bigger until they have consequences of their own. That’s what I began thinking about when writing The Blood Promise. I wondered what a lie would look like when dragged out over several centuries. And then, because I have a tortured (torturing?!) mind, I wondered what things would look like if the lie (what happened to the Dauphin) was told by one person, but became the baggage of another (Senator Charles Lake).
The book actually began quite differently than the one you see now. I’d harnessed the history of Napoleon Bonaparte and tried to weave the story about a document written by him. But history foiled me, and I wrote myself into a complicated mess that I couldn’t untangle - the timelines of Napoleon, the Dauphin, and the other players simply didn’t match up. I guess you could say history messed with me, too.
I also wanted to examine the subject of personal ambition. One man on his way up, and a woman fighting to regain the stature she once held. One self-made, the other a product of a wealthy, historically powerful family. I thought it interesting that even though their ambitions came from different places, ruthlessness became an integral tool for both. But as we so often see in the real world, it’s often not outside forces that destroy powerful people, it’s themselves. With a little help from history, of course.
The Blood Promise was hard to write in one way, because as much as I love thinking of fun ways to do away with my characters, and exotic reasons why they must go, I also get great pleasure from creating characters that I come to see as very real. Which means killing one of them off is quite distressing. I brought in Camille Lerens as a counter-weight to the demise of ... of.... (see, I can’t even bring myself to admit I did it!) but once I’d finished the book, I started to wonder whether I created her to make the reader feel better, or myself! Maybe both, and no harm in that. I’ve been asked why I would kill off a major character, and that’s a good and fair question. I think there are a couple of reasons. First, people die, and not just the “little” people. People who are important to us, people whose lives touch and change ours, and I think it makes the books stronger when the surviving characters have to deal with the deaths of people they love. Second, as a creative matter, it also strikes me as an ever-weakening device to constantly almost kill one’s major players. Every now and again, for the sake of surprising and moving the reader, one of them must bite the bullet. And yes, it’s okay to shed a tear for someone you cared about, even if you only ever met them in a book.
One last, and somewhat happier, thing to point out is that The Blood Promise continues the tradition of story and character links between the Hugo Marston novels. Two people who play small roles in this novel, Garcia’s brother and the mischievous Merlyn, will spend more time on the page in the future. Merlyn is first up, meeting Hugo and then accompanying him on his adventures in England in the next book in the series, The Button Man. And if you’re wondering, as Hugo is, where Tom disappears to on Sunday nights, that, too, will be revealed in a future Marston book. But I’m not saying which one...
1. What do you think is meant by the title? What, in the book, is the “blood promise” - and is there more than one?
2. In The Blood Promise, several people are more concerned with image and impression than reality. Who are they, and do you think they have good cause to be?
3. Hugo has seen a lot of death in his career. In The Blood Promise, someone close to him dies - do you think his familiarity with death makes losing a friend any easier?
4. In several of the Hugo Marston books, characters point out that the coming of the European union altered the playing field for the good guys and the bad guys alike. In what way has this happened, and which of those groups do you think benefits the most?
5. Hugo and Tom Green have similar backgrounds, yet their investigative approaches differ - why is that? Is one more appropriate or effective than the other?
6. Hugo and Tom also have remarkably different personalities. Do you agree that often Hugo acts more like Tom’s brother than his friend? If so, why do you think that is?
7. Why is Hugo so confident in his work, yet seemingly less so when courting Claudia?
8. Crime solving can be high-tech these days, with fingerprint and DNA analysis, as well as surveillance cameras on every corner. Hugo’s methods, by contrast, are more old-fashioned: legwork and deductive reasoning, relying on his knowledge of human behavior rather than technology. Is there still a place for the Hugo Marstons of the world when it comes to solving big crimes?
9. How much of Hugo’s character is defined by his role as an outsider, a foreigner? Do you think this is a benefit or a hindrance to solving crimes?
10. Hugo says that Paris is his favorite city. Why do you think that is? Do cities really have personalities of their own, or are they merely reflections of our own experiences, prejudices, preferences, and perceptions?