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The Chestnut Roaster - Eve McDonnell

A brilliant plot, force of nature heroine, Catacombs and an evil doctor...this is a great mystery set in historical Paris, from Elsetime author, Eve McDonnell. I loved the descriptions, the fast-paced action and the battle of child versus adults...the underdog battling to fight for a cause both against the disbelief of those who should be supporting her, and those she is correct to be afraid of doing her wrong!

Piaf is a great protagonist, and the memory-boxes of her mind a brilliant device in unravelling the mystery and unlocking the truth, her past, and ultimately saving the day.

A cracking tale ('s the best 'chestnut' pun I can come up with!).

I'm thrilled that author, Eve, has shared this brilliant blog about the secret world under the streets of Paris as part of the blogtour for this book: see below ( and thanks!)

October 24th Richard @richreadalot.

Paris’s Underground Twin

‘One city, filled with boutiques, sparkling lights and life,

the other, hidden, filthy, and ignored.

So different and yet so alike.

Paris’s twin.’

Paris is known for its grandeur, from the triumphant Eiffel Tower, built as a temporary gateway to the Exposition Universelle in 1889, to the majesty of Notre-Dame and the Arch de Triomphe; from the endless galleries of the Louvre to the white domes of Sacré-Cœur. People dream of sipping coffee outside its classy cafés, watching the fashion stroll by after a day browsing through boutiques and choosing fresh macarons at Ladurée. It’s all so rich. But did you know Paris has a twin?

Beneath the streets of Paris, Piaf leads Luc and Bertie from the Bone Well to the Empire of the Dead – illustration by Ewa Beniak-Haremska

Much like Piaf and Luc, twins are often different yet somehow the same, and this applies to Paris’s underground twin too. The underground maze of tunnels, some barely big enough to wriggle through, often echo the layout of the streets overhead – many even have street names from above etched out in their walls – but it is a far cry from the sparkling richness of the city above. These underground quarries were the birthplace of the stone used to build many of the great buildings of Paris.

Though the existence of the underground city comes as some surprise to Piaf in The Chestnut Roaster, the estimated nearly 200 miles of tunnels made their presence known throughout Parisian history. In the 1770s, a deadly sinkhole known as the ‘Mouth of Hell’ swallowed houses at Rue d’Enfer. A few years on, the hidden chambers were used as burial sites during the French Revolution, and later, during World War II, the French Resistance fighters used the dark and deep tunnels as hideouts while other chambers were converted into bunkers by German soldiers. Secret parties and concerts were held underground, explorers explored, and artists left their mark with wild and wonderful murals. Of course, they were never alone for the ghost of poor Philibert Aspairt, a man said to have disappeared underground, is said to roam the darkest routes (and also the pages of The Chestnut Roaster!).

You can visit one small section known as the Catacombs today, and it has some very strange inhabitants indeed – the bones of six million people! At the end of the 18th Century, Paris’s cemeteries were overflowing. The streets held the stench of corpses, bones collapsed into neighbouring buildings. By cover of night, the corpses were carried by horse and black cloth-covered wagons to the Catacombs where workers fashioned impressive displays out of the bones themselves. These bones had to star in Piaf’s story!

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