The Paris Architect
In 1942 Paris, the good guys are not all that good. We meet the hero/antihero of this novel, architect Lucien Bernard, as he nervously jokes with Nazi soldiers who just murdered a Jewish man on the rue la Boétie. Some blood has splattered on Bernard’s suit, which the SS officer admires for its cut. Ironically, Bernard is on his way to a meeting with a wealthy and daring businessman who bribes Bernard into devising hiding places for Jews. This industrialist will ensure that Bernard gets jobs designing munitions factories and such, collaborating with the Germans, but only if he will design the hiding places. Bernard keeps insisting that each hiding place is the last, but he saves lives despite himself. Bernard’s drab wife doesn’t want Bernard collaborating with the Nazis or, worse, helping Jews. As for Bernard’s mistress, she’s sleeping with a sadistic Nazi.
I enjoyed this novel’s suspense, and I also liked the author’s smooth writing, fast-paced action, and description of Paris during World War II. There’s a lovely little map of Paris, showing the locations of all the streets mentioned in the story, a nice touch that appears in too few historical novels. However, the cast of contemptible characters was discouraging. As for Bernard, he evolves but he’s so unlikeable that I didn’t care all that much. Warning: there are paragraphs of description of the SS torturing their victims.