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First Look Club: Clifford reviews The Paris Apartment by Lucy Foley

First Look Club: Clifford reviews The Paris Apartment by Lucy Foley


By Lucy Foley

Publication date: February 22, 2022

Reviewed by Clifford Jongko

I’m wary about reading modern mystery novels because, more often than not, they’re just a mish-mash of Doyle and Christie tropes. Great if the story isn’t set in London, even better if the main character isn’t a sleuth of some sort. The Paris Apartment ticks both boxes, so hey, it’s a good start.

A House of Secrets

After leaving her old life under less-than-ideal circumstances, Jess receives an invitation from her half-brother Ben to stay at his appartement in Paris. As soon as she arrived, Ben stopped answering her calls. With no one to ring her in, she breaks into Ben’s apartment, which bears signs that he didn’t leave of his own free will. Fearing the worst for Ben, Jess’s search places her in the path of the apartment building’s odd melange of occupants, through its secret passages and into the filthy underbelly of what is otherwise known as the city of love.

Shifting Viewpoints

The Paris Apartment is told in the first person in multiple viewpoints. Multiple unreliable narrators give the reader a look at their motivation without revealing their secrets too early. My only problem with how this style is used in the book is that it made the characters seem like they're the same person, apart from a few interjections in French, which Jess had made abundantly clear that she knows little of. Most of the story felt like it was told through the eyes of an omniscient first-person narrator rather than individuals with different personalities.

There’s also the liberal use of tropes like previously-unknown familial connections, secret doorways, The Mysterious Silent Character (the concierge, in this case)...not to mention the convenient coincidences — where to begin? One can argue that they’re the building blocks of a locked-room mystery novel, but they can easily turn a story into a paint-by-numbers piece if not used properly. And don’t forget the absent Ben, an improbable rogue whose irresistible charm, for some reason, is emphasized in nearly every chapter.

Not Without Its Merits

One of the things I really liked about The Paris Apartment is that most of the story is set in the titular apartment building, which can be considered as a character in itself. The brooding atmosphere, the occupants’ casual voyeurism, and the apparent differences between Jess’s street smarts (she knew how to pick locks, among other things) and the other occupants’ bourgeois lifestyles all add tension to a steadily escalating plot.

It annoys me to no end when a story that’s supposed to be set in one location becomes a field trip, as if the author is checking off a list of the places they’ve been to. In this book, the story is mostly set in the apartment building. It made the story easier to follow, and helped make the twist at the end — every good mystery novel has a twist or two, come on — even more shocking.

You read that right. Despite my misgivings, I consider The Paris Apartment a good mystery novel. How is that for a twist?

Clifford is a content writer, musician, and caffeine fiend who co-hosts comic book podcast Those Fcking Nerds on Facebook and designs custom slipcases and box sets. Check his stuff out on his Instagram at your own peril.

[Thoughts and views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Fully Booked. Then again, we love our authors anyway.]

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