An eagerly anticipated thriller for 2022, The Paris Apartment is New York Times best seller Lucy Foley’s latest murder mystery which explores the nitty gritty of a rich and secretive family and the disappearance of a journalist who knows too much.
The book opens with our English protagonist Jess who shows up at her brother Ben’s luxury apartment in Paris only to find him missing and a very strange energy from his neighbours: the wife of a wine merchant, a good-natured Englishman, an aggressive alcoholic and a timid young woman with an intimidatingly sexy roommate, not to mention the aged and creepy Concierge. It soon becomes clear he’s got himself tied up in a story that he has been working on - something that has turned out to be more messy and dangerous than he probably expected.
The first thing I noticed about this story was far too much emphasis on some of the characters’ “French-ness”. I scoffed to myself, “French people don’t walk around talking about how French they are and doing stereotypical French things like buying croissants.” But as the story progressed and we began to see that shallow exteriors of these characters were just that - exteriors - it became clear why that emphasis was there.
Which leads us onto my main issue with the book. There were no likable characters at any point. The lead character feels like the least fleshed out of all of them, surprisingly, and while we do feel a little sorry for her, we can never fully invest in her. The same goes with all the characters; they are all so suspicious that the resolution is not surprising at all even if it is also not predictable. Even the supposed victim is a piece of work, and you can’t help but think that whatever happens to him is something he had coming.
It’s rather a slow-burner of a book which means there is a lot of character background, but not enough depth. In the latter half things start to happen - frankly, so many secrets spill out that it’s commendable that the author managed to keep track of it all. The non-linear execution was confusing at times, you have to work very hard to work out where you are in the timeline (as in, are we pre- Ben missing or post-?), but it’s also not exactly a book you’re likely to abandon halfway through; the circumstances are much too intriguing.
The atmosphere was rather enjoyable throughout the story. A spooky Parisian apartment complex with old fashioned furnishings and clouds of cigarette smoke lends a bit of an Agatha Christie air, but it is almost comically stereotypical and sometimes feels like the author has been Googling “What are French people like?” Still, imagining the twists and turns of this wicked building is enough to chill you to the core.
The ending was rather unexpected, if a little sudden, which was sad as I would’ve liked to have known a little more about what happened to some of the characters. They mostly just disappeared which felt like a lazy “tie-up” from the author when we were still left wondering what to make of the Concierge and Mimi’s relationship, and what would become of Irena: the most captivating character of the lot and she only turns up two or three times.
All in all you could describe The Paris Apartment as another unputdownable novel from Lucy Foley, but with a resolution that could’ve been much more interesting if we’d trusted any of the characters.
The Paris Apartment by Lucy Foley is released on March 3rd 2022.