Sunday, September 13, 2015

The Paris Key, by Juliet Blackwell

Penguin Group, ISBN 9780451473691, September 2015

Genevieve Martin is getting divorced from Jason, and in the middle of the process she leaves California for Paris. In Paris, her ex-pat Uncle Dave, her mother's brother, has recently died, and her cousin Catharine wants her to sort out and possibly take over Dave's locksmith shop.

The emotional background is of course far more fraught than that simple description. Genevieve's mother, Angela, visited Dave and his French wife, Pasquale, in Paris just before she became pregnant with Genevieve. It's referred to as Angela's "Paris vacation," and she never went again, nor did Dave ever visit them in California. When Genevieve was fourteen, Angela died of cancer, and Genevieve's father, Jim, sent her to Paris to visit her Uncle for the summer, in the hope that would help her work through her grief. During that summer, Dave taught her about locks and locksmithing, and Genevienve thought she'd found her calling. Then summer ended, and Dave sent her home.

What Genevieve has learned in life is that people leave--that she doesn't know how to love properly, and so people leave. Her mother died. Her uncle sent her away from Paris. Her husband was unfaithful. Can she make a new beginning in Paris? Or is she just running away?

The main portion of the book is Genevieve's experiences in the present day, but in interspersed chapters we see Angela's Paris visit in the early 1980s, and Genevieve's in the late 1990s. Meanwhile, in the present, Genevieve gets to know her French cousin and French neighbors, and a handsome Irishman living in Paris, works on the last few locksmith jobs Dave left undone when he died, and battles French bureaucracy for the necessary permits and license to keep operating the locksmith shop.

Oh, and getting more and more caught up in the mystery of exactly what happened to Angela in Paris, and why there was so little contact between Angela and her seemingly much-loved older brother. And what about the ancient Syrian key that Dave gave Angela, which Genevieve has kept as keepsake of her mother? Is there anything it unlocks today?

This is not a book with much action as such. It's a book of character development, hidden emotion, a bit of mystery, and a bit of romance. And it's extremely well done.

Recommended.

I received a free electronic galley of this book from the publisher via NetGalley.