By Daneet Steffens
Updated October 16, 1998 at 04:00 AM EDT

In 1982 American novelist Alex Karmel bought an apartment in Paris’ Marais district. His curiosity sparked by nearby houses dating from the 15th century, he dusted off historical manuscripts and traced his own abode to 1393. In this celebration of his new neighborhood, Karmel examines its evolution from 10th-century farmland to designated historical district. He discovers murder (the Duke of Orleans was killed a block away from the author’s house in 1410) and art (Beaumarchais wrote The Marriage of Figaro across the street). A Corner in the Marais is a charming ode to six centuries of Marais architecture, whether Karmel is singing the praises of the Place des Vosges or the flamboyant Gothic house in which Brigitte Bardot once lived. B+

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