The Paris Lawyer has the potential to be an amazing book—and probably is, in French. All the elements are in place: a smart female lawyer, a family secret, and an emotionally charged legal case. What happens though is some of the bite is taken off of the meaning. The translation is well done, but while the translation is perfect (kudos to the translator), the story’s flare fails to spark.
There are small translation nuances, such as word meanings and commonplace sentence structuring, but those aren’t deal breakers. What hinders the pacing is narrative technique and character perspectives. One minute the writing is terse and the next is beautiful French-esque descriptions and back again. For instance, the author describes beautiful weather and scenery and then suddenly a body appears. Or we may read one line about a person’s attitude, followed by an entire paragraph describing their attire. However, the largest hindrance to absorbing this novel is the difficulty determining the time of the narrative; it flips from present to past, but it’s sometimes hard to differentiate when that happens.
Now for the good stuff, which there plenty of. This novel was presented to me as being similar to Gone Girl. DO NOT go in with those assumptions. This is a mystery, there are flashbacks, and there is a twist, but it’s not Gone Girl set in France. I believe those similarities were drawn because both authors sat on a panel together at a conference, but you’ll have a tough time with the story if you are expecting Gone Girl. This novel stands up on its own merit—and very well, at that.
Thankfully this is not a legal thriller. The trial serves as a prop in the background as we are witness to the protagonist digging up her past as she wrestles against small- town preconceived assumptions. And I really like the backdrop: an African lady brought to trial for her husband’s murder. But it’s not all about the town’s assumption, but that of Catherine, our protagonist.
For my own rating, I would probably give this three stars, just because of the affect the pacing had on me. However, I can see the bones of a strong story here and that causes me to give it a higher rating of four stars. This could have been written by an American author and been a New York Times best seller. Easily. Take the story with my earlier given considerations and you’ll have a great time.