Mystery of the Month – April in Paris, 1921

Spring has sprung so why not start your September with April in Paris, 1921 – sexy historical fiction budding with romance, intrigue and mystery?

Former WWI nurse, Katherine ‘Kiki’ Button has shed the cocooned life her parents planned for her (marriage to a baron and babies) and emerges free as a butterfly in London, seeking employment from close friend and occasional lover, Bertie Browne, subeditor of The Star newspaper. He sends her to Paris to attend fancy society parties and write tongue-in-cheek gossip columns about bohemians, artists and aristocrats.

In the city of dreams, Kiki drowns her war memories in champagne, fancy cocktails and frequent trysts with a variety of lovers, including artist Pablo Picasso. Things get interesting when Picasso asks Kiki to find a stolen painting of his wife. At the same time, Kiki’s old spymaster, the enigmatic Dr Fox, blackmails her into tracking down a mole or else risk the release of secrets that will endanger her beloved Tom. Naturally, the two mysteries are somehow linked.

A debut novelist but an experienced writer, Tessa Lunney is well-researched on war and war fiction with an in-depth understanding of the political and social climate of the era and setting. Her depiction of 1920s Paris is sumptuous and vivid, from the fashions and food to its famous inhabitants. It’s easy to visualise Kiki sitting on the windowsill of her studio, smoking her cigarettes with her legs dangling high above Parisian streets, relishing her freedom. The residual trauma of the war is ever present, lurking in the background for many of the main characters. Lunney’s writing style is swift with bursts of snappy dialogue and poetic imagery.

A quick and easy read, April in Paris, 1921 is as bright and colourful as one of Kiki’s society parties – full of larger than life characters and over in a whirlwind of jazz dancing and purple cocktails. Kiki is an intelligent, modern woman, expertly decoding the clues in Keats poems planted by the confusing Fox and charming everyone she meets (often into bed). A refreshing leading lady, Kiki, ‘the blonde Australienne’, does what she wants, enjoys flirting with danger and relishes in the challenges she faces as a blossoming detective.

Devour this novel as you would a delicious pastry or rich piece of cake. And leave room for seconds as there’s unfinished business with Fox and Tom, as well as the first seeds of fascism paving the way for a sequel.

April In Paris, 1921 by Tessa Lunney is published in Australia by HarperCollins Publishers.

Standout Simile: –

The sky was purple like lilacs, like royalty, like a bruised mouth, as it slowly passed into darkness.

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