Lucy Foley’s 2021 novel The Guest List was popular with readers and critics alike so it bodes well that I actually enjoyed her latest novel The Paris Apartment even more. It’s choc-o-block full of twists and surprises – bumping this up to a rare 4.5 star rating from me.
However… I have to confess the unlikeability of basically ALL of the characters meant I was tempted to be less generous. Though, of course I realise (in some ways) Foley’s issuing a challenge to we readers to dislike yet engage with [our lead protagonist in particular] at the same time.The Paris Apartment
by Lucy Foley
Published by HarperCollins UK
Genres: Thriller / Suspense, Psychological Thriller
Jess needs a fresh start. She’s broke and alone, and she’s just left her job under less than ideal circumstances. Her half-brother Ben didn’t sound thrilled when she asked if she could crash with him for a bit, but he didn’t say no, and surely everything will look better from Paris. Only when she shows up – to find a very nice apartment, could Ben really have afforded this? – he’s not there.
The longer Ben stays missing, the more Jess starts to dig into her brother’s situation, and the more questions she has. Ben’s neighbors are an eclectic bunch, and not particularly friendly. Jess may have come to Paris to escape her past, but it’s starting to look like it’s Ben’s future that’s in question.
The socialite – The nice guy – The alcoholic – The girl on the verge – The concierge
Everyone’s a neighbor. Everyone’s a suspect. And everyone knows something they’re not telling.
I talked in a recent review about flawed main characters and their reliability. Here it’s not as if our primary protagonist (Jess) is unreliable as such, it’s more that I just didn’t like her as much as I wanted to. We learn she and her half brother lived very different lives after the death of their mother. Ben was adopted into a middle class family while Jess continued to be shunted around to foster homes.
It’s not that she’s evil in any way, but even the basic stuff – like her pilfering money from her brother’s wallet without giving it much consideration – said something about her character and lack of conscience. That said, I completely understand why she’s distrustful of others and feels entitled to take what she can, when she can.
And as for the other characters…. well….!
Foley introduces the other inhabitants of the Paris apartment building one by one, from their point of view so we know they knew Ben and we know they’re hiding something.
From Jess’s arrival she’s warned about the ‘evilness’ of the place. And Foley easily establishes a sense of menace.
The gate clangs shut behind the girl. She thinks that she’s staying in a normal apartment building. A place that follows ordinary rules. She has no idea what she has got herself into here. p 106
This made me worry there’d be some gothic nuance as it’s not a genre I enjoy. And Jess is left to wonder if it’s the place or the people. #SpoilerAlert… Both are weird.
Initially Jess receives little support in her efforts to find her missing brother. Though eventually Nick (her brother’s friend) helps and she seeks out Theo – a newspaper editor with whom Ben was working. But in essence it all falls on Jess and she doggedly searches for answers, despite it becoming obvious that something nefarious (well, certainly illegal) is afoot.
I LOVED some of the twists here. Because we’re with Jess who comes into Ben’s life (and his world) cold, one of the first big reveals (discovered while she’s poking around the complex’s penthouse) is a shocker. Completely unexpected. But it explains a lot and sets the scene for what comes next. It does also however, make things a smidge more creepy.
It’s impossible to talk about the following twists and turns without giving much away, but Jess does retrace some of her brother’s footsteps and find that his presence at the apartment may have been on the pretext of something more than needing a place to stay.
This is a great read with lots of surprises. I read it in a sitting and was actually very satisfied with its conclusion (which doesn’t often happen). I’ve not been to Paris so – even though I skim detail – appreciated that Foley has included references to things others might know or recognise – streets, landmarks, food and wine for example in an effortless way.
The Paris Apartment by Lucy Foley will be published overseas in late February and in early March 2022 by Harper Collins in Australia.
I received an electronic copy of this book from the publisher for review purposes.