As I read and write and think a lot about detective and crime fiction, I’m starting to put together quick, bite-size reviews of the books in these genres. Sadly, capacity is too limited to cover all the films and TV series I watch too, but these might be added in the future.
The ‘see also’ section below gives you a hint of the story, its themes, and its style, and is spoiler-free, but reviews themselves aren’t guaranteed to be thus!
If you’re interested in reading my academic work about detective and crime fiction (free PDFs available), check it out here.
These lists capture other detective/crime stories and characters that I thought of as I was reading this piece. I won’t explain why, to avoid spoilers, but they’re associations and not ‘if you liked this, then you’ll love…’ recommendations!
- The Abduction (Book 2 of JP Delaney’s Carnivia trilogy)
- Innumerable Law and Order: Special Victims Unit episodes
- Foley’s two other most recent novels
- Mary Elizabeth Braddon’s Thou Art the Man
Review (2 out of 5)
This is the third of Foley’s mystery/crime novels that I’ve read, and I have begun to find her preferred structure somewhat dull and formulaic. There is something a little simplistic in the chronology-building through very short fragmentary chapters. The intellectual challenge that it might take on the author’s side to make sure that each shard of prose delivers a clue or plot development comes at the expense of other modes of developing character, place, and plot. It delivers a rhythm as predictable as a Disney movie.
I did quite like the main protagonist here, Jess, although she was a little thinly drawn. I could have done with seeing more of her brother, Ben. Their family dynamic is by the most interesting in the book, but has to play second fiddle to the ‘secret’ dynamics that Foley’s structure requires in order to have them revealed. Paris is entirely irrelevant to the plot. They could have been virtually anywhere. Given the importance of location in Foley’s preceding two novels, that is a little bit of a shame, but in a way I think we can see her setting choice as an attempt to vary the country house crime fiction trope. The way the apartment building transforms into a country house is an interesting play on models like the recent The Crooked House adaptation that uses radically different interior styles to segment the extended family home.
Although the prefatory material suggests that this is the most complex story structure/plot, I think it’s on a par with both The Hunting Party and The Guest List in terms of sophistication. It was fairly clear who would betray whom, and what the main twists would be (especially when they were framed as ‘dark secrets’). I think, perhaps, I am getting a little tired of detective fiction that treats sexual violence/exploitation in quite the way that Paris Apartment does; it was pretty clear what was coming. (It made me roll my eyes in the same way Antony Horowitz’s The House of Silk did, for exactly the same reason.)
I hope that Foley might play around with her formal approach in her next book, as I do enjoy her work!
Lucy Foley’s The Paris Apartment was Book 48 of my 2022 reading adventure. You can see the whole thread for 2022, and look back to 2021, on Twitter.