The Paris Apartment

Lucy Foley


I have noticed a resurgence recently in classic "closed circle" mysteries. If you aren't familiar with the term, it refers to a type of plot set up where there is only an isolated group of suspects, usually cut off from the outside world, who could have committed a crime, most commonly murder. "Closed circle" mysteries, were most popular in the golden age of mystery books penned by authors like Agatha Christie and John Dickinson Carr. Agatha Christie's "And Then There Were None" is probably the best-known of these. Recently released examples include "The Sanatorium" by Sarah Pearse and "One by One" by Ruth Ware.

Lucy Foley specializes in "closed circle" mysteries. Her first two books, "The Hunting Party" and "The Guest List" both involved a group of people in an isolated setting (an isolated estate in Scotland in the first and a virtually uninhabited island in the second) who become the only suspects when one of their number is murdered. Her most recent release, "The Paris Apartment" isn't, strictly speaking, a "closed circle" mystery but it is a close cousin. The novel opens with Ben, a British journalist living in Paris, waiting in his apartment for his half-sister Jess to arrive. Jess has just lost her job at a dive bar in England and needs a place to stay until she gets back on her feet but when she arrives at Ben's apartment, he has disappeared without a trace. Jess becomes increasingly concerned with what has happened to him and investigates. The primary suspects are the other tenants of the apartment who are each disturbing in their own way. The book is narrated in sections by each of the characters skipping back and forth in time and they are all unreliable narrators including Jess. All of the characters including the victim are unlikeable though I expect the author intended them to be nuanced. Foley writes with a dark sense of foreboding and dread reminiscent of an Alfred Hitchcock movie. The story takes a lot of twists and turns as we gradually come to understand more about the tenants of the apartment and their interconnecting stories. A good beach read or vacation book.