THE PARIS AFFAIR by Pip Drysdale (Simon & Schuster, 2021)
The Stranger’s We Know by Australian author Pip Drysdale was one of the most entertaining domestic thrillers of 2020 and she has now followed it up with the equally good, if not better, The Paris Affair.
Harper Brown, @new.girlinparis, is a sharp and sassy young British writer who has landed a dream job with an online French magazine in Paris. She longs to be a serious journalist, but for the moment she is desperately trying to appease her editor with slightly off-beat culture stories. She gets her chance to do something more serious when she is asked to do a feature about up and coming artist Noah X and his new exhibition. She wangles her way into the post-exhibition party and even manages to have sex with the artist on the rooftop patio, before everything goes terribly wrong. Before long Harper finds herself caught up in a murder investigation, the search for a possible serial killer and some seriously dodgy dealings in the Paris artworld.
This is a brisk, witty tale with a very modern feel to it. Harper is a slightly edgy, but engaging character, who is jaded from a disastrous love affair in the past. Her narration is cynical, but honest, and her reflections on life are razor sharp and often very funny. The opening scene in which Harper demonstrates how to end a relationship in three minutes, is honest, funny, slightly poignant and a good indication of the story to come.
Once underway, the murder plot is well worked out and Pip is quite skilled at laying false clues and keeping it nicely bubbling along. There are some slow spots, but the witty reflections by Harper on Paris life, men and office politics keep it interesting. The tension ramps up towards the end and there are some good suspenseful moments, and the final twist is well concealed and very surprising.
As with The Strangers We Know, The Paris Affair is packaged to appeal to the Netflix generation with brief chapters, frequent references to popular culture, a preoccupation with modern gadgetry, non-committal sex and a bright, perky tone. The modern feel of the book is also helped by Harper’s narration. Despite her outer layer of toughness, Harper is desperately trying to find her way in life, and is a charming and sympathetic character with a modern ‘everygirl’ feel to her. She can also be quite amusing, even in moments of stress, as in her description of being locked in a car boot:
“But I can do this. Because I know about car boots. I’ve written about them. There’s an emergency release catch somewhere. …Where the fuck is it? What good was my fucking column? …
And it’s hot. It’s so fucking hot. So much hotter than I thought it might be. Did those YouTube videos I watched ever talk about how fucking hot it is in a car boot?”
In all, it is a very entertaining read, with a nice unpredictable plot, enjoyable characters, especially Harper’s friend Camilla, some clever twists and a touch of romance. The descriptions of Paris are also very good and will make you long for the end to the current travel restrictions.
The Paris Affair is not my usual reading fare, but I really enjoyed it and I think it will appeal to those who enjoyed Netflix’s You and other similar shows.
Four stars out of Five
The Paris Affair was released in Australia by Simon & Schuster on
3 February 2021 and is available in the United States on Amazon. I am not sure what the release date in the United Kingdom is.