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Thursday, February 22, 2018
5:11 pm est
The Paris Secret
I have an affinity for fine art, Paris during World War II, and a good mystery. So, when they are walloped together
into an ingeniously woven and well-written novel… I am hooked beyond pleasure.
I’ve waited to read
The Paris Secret: A Novel by Karen Swan ever since it hit the best-seller lists back in early November. However, a copy of it – appreciatively
received from the publisher – sat on my TR&R stack well beyond my Twelve Days celebration of Christmas. But, finally,
after the all the festivities died down, I started reading it. It was well worth the wait. So much so, that I savored it for
a whole month!
Flora Skyes, the intrepid, cool-headed protagonist is a dynamically high-powered art agent. She
is hired by a supposedly “noble” family to trace the provenance of a cache of paintings hidden since 1943 in an
abandoned Paris apartment. As she begins her quest to document the previous owners of the pieces, she finds herself instantly
embroiled in mystery and intrigue, uncovering underlying and overlaying schemes of deceit and deception that permeate the
Vermeil family who claim ownership of the apartment.
One painting in particular – a portrait of a women
in a yellow dress – captures her attention. As she focusses in on its history and why and how it came to be secreted
by itself in yet another abandoned apartment below the first, Flora learns of a German art dealer supposedly working for the
Third Reich who sold the paintings stolen from Jews whom he was suspected of betraying to the Nazis. What connection did he
have with the Vermeils? And how did the paintings – these supposedly in his possession at the time of his disappearance
– wind up in their abandoned apartment?
With its flowing, adjective-riddled complex sentences and sometimes
often oblique references to historical events, The Paris Secret is quite different form the typical run-of-the-mill
murder and/or robbery mystery. It appeals to the more intellectually astute reader who seeks total immersion in the lives,
times, and not so familiar day-to-day affairs and experiences of complex, in-depth characters. It also appeals to the higher-end
fashionistas of both the art and “haute-couture” worlds. It must be said that Swan, the British author, started
her writing career as an editor in the fashion industry. So, of course, it stands to reason that this, her second entry into
the literary world, would be pock-marked with all sorts of descriptions of her characters’ attire, many of which were
well beyond my ken. However, the descriptions and references only added to the allure of this mystery. Living with Flora and
her fashion-minded friends while delving into the darker enigmatics of the art world was an entirely different, thoroughly
enjoyable experience for me.
Careening through the last 100 pages, Swann adeptly and adroitly begins to tie up
all her loose ends. Flora finds not only resolution to the many baffling aspects of her “case’, but also [finally]
finds love with one of the more perplexing characters. He was not whom I wanted her to end with had I written this novel,
but, then again, the coupling makes perfect, if not surprising, sense. And whom Von Teschelt, the nefarious so-called Nazi
art dealer – as well as the lady in the portrait – turn out to be… Well, it was the one of the most satisfying
endings to a most satisfying story.
Enjoy the read!
J. McInerney, the host of this Literary Blog, is
an author, poet, and librettist. Her currently published works include a novel, a book of spiritual inspirations,
volumes of poetry, stories
for children (of all ages) and
a variety of children's musicals. Her titles include:
Hose, Hook & Ladder: A Novel of Phoenixville during World War I
Columbia Hotel: A Novel
of Phoenixville during the Early 1900s
the Schuylkill Monster: A Novel of Phoenixville in
The Prisoner's Portrait: A Novel of Phoenxville during World War II
Rainbow in the Sky
of Oreigh Ogglefont
The Basset Chronicles.
Cats of Nine Tales
Water: A Collection of Poems
Exodus Ending: A
Collection of More Spiritual Poems
We Three Kings
Beauty and the Beast
Peter, Wolf, and Red Riding
Originally from the New York metropolitan area, June currently lives near Valley Forge Park in Pennsylvania with her constant and loving companions, FrankieBernard and Sebastian Cat. She
is currently working on her sixth novel.