Friday, October 1, 2010

The Black Tower - Louis Bayard

The Black Tower
By: Louis Bayard
Published: 2008
Audiobook Read by: Simon Vance

Here is another random title off the shelf. I normally am not a big fan of historical fiction but I am so glad I didn't let that stop me from giving this great book a chance!

I absolutely love Hector Carpentier! He struggles to figure out what his place should be in this world. He lets the tide of life wash him along wondering all the time if there isn't something more he should be doing. He longs for the love and approval of his mother and has been deprived of his father without ever knowing how much he was loved and how proud his father had been of him. I love his matter of fact appraisal of himself, not trying to sugar coat anything but presenting to the world a man who is what he is. At the same time he really wants to make something useful of himself but just doesn't know how to go about it. As the story unfolds I found a man full of compassion, with a heart of gold, willing to go the extra mile for his fellow men.

Eugéne François Vidocq on the other hand is crass, vulgar, and every bit  the uneducated heathen, in short, he's great! A master of disguise, a genius interrogator, a superb detective, and a fierce opponent of crime and criminals. The very name, Vidocq, strikes terror into the hearts of evildoers, sets the most brutal thug's knees to knocking, and causes young maidens to swoon with hearts longing even to catch a glimpse of him. His methods are less than orthodox but the result is always the same: Vidocq always gets his man. I love how he took Hector under his wing and mentored him in the fine art of detective work, encouraging him to be the best he could be. He loves the ladies but when duty calls, he is always ready to answer.

This story was a wonderful mix of humor, heartbreak, action, and intrigue. I found myself loving it from the first chapter. Bayard's style is so natural and easy to listen to. The dialog and the entire story for that matter flows with an easy graceful way that was a joy to the ears. This early 19th century world that I found myself in was as real in my mind as it could be. Bayard paints a picture that made me feel like I was actually bouncing along the cobblestone streets of Paris.

The real story of Louis Charles is heartbreaking and Bayard does a phenomenal job of weaving fact with fiction to create this incredible tale. I was never prepared for each new surprise that jumped out at me with each passing chapter. The plot that Hector found himself unwillingly in the middle of was devious and underhanded costing lives and nearly putting Hector and Vidocq themselves out of commission in the end. As the tale unfolded before me, I found myself laughing out loud at some of the delightful descriptions of Hector and his fellow characters, just to have tears springing to my eyes as tender and emotional scenes enveloped me. As Vidocq and Hector try to solve the riddle of Louis Charles, they find themselves on a journey that reveals as much about themselves as they learn about the history of France.

The horrendous abuse that Charles endured is a terrible testament of the evil that war brings. This young child was treated worse than an animal just because he was of royal descent. When I finished this book I read up a little on the historical account of Louis Charles and was appalled by the treatment he received. He was physically dragged away from the arms of his mother to be put in a cell and subjected to torture. In the end he spent months alone in a dark cell, wallowing in his own filth until he was so sick and near death that a doctor was called to care for him. The doctor did his best for the boy but from all official accounts he died anyway. He was only 10 years old when he died after spending 2 years in solitary confinement. The things this boy endured are beyond imagination. I sit here looking at my children and wonder what kind of animals could be so evil as to do that to one so innocent.

I listened to the audiobook read by Simon Vance. Simon is a master in his trade! I loved listening to his English accent as he perfectly performed this incredible story. The emotion in his voice was perfect and the way he brought the story to life was truly magical! I will pounce on the opportunity to listen to another of his performances!!

In this book Bayard exploits a historical mystery that was never solved. Was it really Louis Charles who died in that black tower? Some think that it wasn't and the rightful king survived in hiding, some believe he did die. After reading this book you might have an answer, or you might not! I am thrilled to enthusiastically give this my highest rating! Don't hesitate to give it a chance!!


  1. I love historical fiction. I'll definitely be adding this to my list. Thanks for the review.

  2. The Black Tower sounds very interesting. Sometimes I enjoy historical fiction, depending on my mood. Thanks for the review. I like the choice or authors on your profile. I also enjoy A. Christie and A. Conan Doyle very much.