The Alibi Club

Written by Francine Mathews
Review by Ellen Keith

It is the summer of 1940 in Paris, and the Germans are beginning their invasion. Sally King, an American model for the House of Chanel, is expecting a proposal from lawyer Philip Stilwell. Instead, Stilwell is found dead, an apparent victim of a gay encounter gone wrong. Refusing to accept his death as anything but murder, Sally brings her questions to the American Embassy, and a chain of events is set in motion by her inquiry.

Reminiscent of Casablanca with its “usual suspects,” The Alibi Club has a host of shady characters—from lawyers to nightclub singers to Germans with questionable alliances. Sally’s white knight is Joe Hearst of the American Embassy, who uncovers a plot that involves a whole host of other characters, including Frederic Joliot-Curie, son-in-law of the Curies, and his British lover, who is coincidentally the cousin of the German with the questionable alliances. This German is also the lover of the nightclub singer, who is modeled after Josephine Baker. Confused? I was! It took a few readings to untangle the mystery and even now, I’m not so sure I get it. Where this is redeemed, however, is Mathews’s deft evocation of this particular time, when unthinkable things were beginning to happen. There is a hint of future mysteries featuring Sally and Joe, and it is fair to say that I’d brave the plots and follow them.