Liam Callanan comes to the blog today with a new mystery, set in Paris. Please read on for my review of
Paris by the Book
Far from being a quiet story about the life of a Paris bookstore, this story is about the disappearance of a father and husband, and the family’s search to find him, or clues about why he left. Months after the eccentric Robert disappeared, his wife Leah and her daughthers are still finding clues – the most important being airline tickets to Paris. Armed with questions and curiosity, the women head off to Paris to start their search. When an unfinished manuscript leads them to a failing English-language bookstore with an owner desperate to sell, they dive into life in Paris, purchase the store and plan to follow trails to find Robert.
Laden with literary references and much insider knowledge of the publishing industry, Callanan manages to incorporate some lovely vignettes of Paris, giving the story a sense of place that is unlike any I’ve ever read. These passages read much like a love letter to the city – well and lesser known places, often off the beaten track and frequently harkening back to beloved classic Parisian books. And while I loved the references and passages, their inclusion served to overwhelm the forward progress of the novel, as the Eadys search for Robert. I also thought that readers not familiar with Madeline and the Red Balloon, or the others, would miss many of the connections made between the books and the women’s search.
With all of the inclusions, the pacing and the underlying mystery thread tended to get lost in what felt like a puzzle without clear borders: issues from family loyalty to the power of love, the unfinished manuscript seeming to mirror their movements and lives, and even a serious frustration with Leah as she seemed to be caught in an 18 year web of dysfunction and seriously unwilling and lacking in the courage to just say – enough. This opportunity for a new life, new places and happiness were all too easily accepted without actually making the moves to embrace them…. Far from what I expected and less offered in terms of the mystery presented, the story was atmospheric if a bit cluttered with information and passages that felt unnecessary and perhaps a bit contrived.
Title: Paris by the Book
Author: Liam Callanan
Genre: Contemporary Mystery, Setting: France
Published by: Dutton
Published on: 3 April, 2018
Source: Publisher Via Edelweiss
Audio Length: 11 Hours: 50 minutes
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A missing person, a grieving family, a curious clue: a half-finished manuscript set in Paris. Heading off in search of its author, a mother and her daughters find themselves in France, rescuing a failing bookstore and drawing closer to unexpected truths.
Once a week, I chase men who are not my husband….
When eccentric novelist Robert Eady abruptly vanishes, he leaves behind his wife, Leah, their daughters, and, hidden in an unexpected spot, plane tickets to Paris.
Hoping to uncover clues—and her husband—Leah sets off for France with her girls. Upon their arrival, she discovers an unfinished manuscript, one Robert had been writing without her knowledge…and that he had set in Paris. The Eady women follow the path of the manuscript to a small, floundering English-language bookstore whose weary proprietor is eager to sell. The whole store? Today? Yes, but Leah’s biggest surprise comes when she hears herself accepting the offer on the spot.
As the family settles into their new Parisian life, they can’t help but trace the literary paths of some beloved Parisian classics, including Madeline and The Red Balloon, hoping more clues arise. But a series of startling discoveries forces Leah to consider that she may not be ready for what solving this mystery might do to her family—and the Paris she thought she knew.
At once haunting and charming, Paris by the Book follows one woman’s journey as her story is being rewritten, exploring the power of family and the magic that hides within the pages of a book.