the paris apartment book cover

Another Generic Thriller

Author: Lucy Foley

Jess is a stranger in Pairs, a girl on the run from a job turned sour, looking for her pretentious brother and a place to crash. Instead, she finds an elaborate, empty apartment, a spot of blood, and a building full of strange people with secrets. In the darkness of shadows and wealth, Jess is alone, and she doesn’t know if she can trust anyone.

This is my first venture into the hyped world of famed mystery/thriller author Lucy Foley. I have some of her other books on my shelves, curtesy of Book of the Month, but I started here because a) the title is amazing, b) the cover is suitably brooding, and c) the hype was just too intriguing. What I got was a so-so mystery with the usual tropes: gothic location; rich, psychotic people; lots of hushed conversations in dark corners; loads of foreboding imagery; rampant alcoholism; and a host of easily mis-matched, forgettable, and totally unsympathetic characters. The only thing unique here is the endless French that is spoken and then immediately translated into English, crushing that urbane flair the book was trying so hard to capture.

Now, when I first discovered mysteries and thrillers, I probably would have been head over heels in love with this. I love broody things with a little bit of that old world horror thrown into the mix. But, with the advent of Gone Girl and my subsequent enthusiastic jump onto the bandwagon of everything twisty-thriller, I have gone through hundreds of thrillers. It’s not impossible to please me anymore, but it is darn difficult, and nothing about The Paris Apartment was especially new or clever. I read it. I liked it ok. It went into my Little Free Library and out of my mind.

Admittedly, I have somewhat low standards. If you can entertain me (and believe me, I want to love your story and throw myself into its world) I can overlook almost anything. But from the beginning, these gritty characters, always ready to spiral into a panic, paranoid and self-absorbed, jettisoned me out of the story. Who cares if they all fall prey to whatever is lurking in that fancy building, behind all that elegant alcoholism and cloistered, incestuous family interest?

Jess is the typical “heroine” who wants to investigate, but never actually does any sleuthing. Instead, answers populate as needed, and the fragmented narrative among a too-large-to-follow cast gives us the answers with little to no effort. The surprise ending that is meant to be shocking isn’t (we saw it coming), and the Days of Our Lives resurrection and everything-is-happy-ever-after motif totally ruins the somber atmosphere that The Paris Apartment was trying so hard to capture.

Did I hate it? No. Did I enjoy reading it well enough: yeah, I guess. Most thrillers are like this now, and us thriller lovers must kiss a lot of frogs before we find our grisly prince. This is an ok beach read, a junk food fiction that passes the time for someone who wants to read but doesn’t want to engage too actively. I’m not especially impressed, and I honestly don’t see where all the shock and awe is coming from. Perhaps new thriller fans are discovering their love of the genre through this mediocre book, having yet to experience what a perfect thriller/mystery can do?

– Frances Carden

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Frances Carden
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