Book Review: Search all of Paris for clues in this fun and poignant read | Entertainment

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By Penny A Parrish FOR THE FREE LANCE-STAR

I’ve had what I call “travel withdrawal symptoms” for the past two years with COVID keeping my feet on solid ground. I miss visiting other places, especially Paris. So when I come across a book with “Paris” in the title, I jump on it. This one definitely allowed me to travel vicariously.

It’s 2011. Joan Blakely is an art enthusiast who works in a gallery in California. Her mother was a model who rubbed shoulders with rock stars and celebrities in her heyday. Joan’s father was Henry Blakely, famous for his temporary artistic creations (think Christo with colored lights instead of fabric). He was on American Airlines Flight 11 from Boston on September 11, 2001. Faced with the coming media barrage on the tenth anniversary of that tragedy, Joan is completely distraught when her husband tells her he is the father of 5 year old twins. with his former assistant. Divorce ensues.

After some tearful discussions with her mother and her friends, Joan decides to take precious sketches to Paris as an art courier. She’s done it before, hiding valuables in her carry-on and posing as a dental hygienist to her seatmate on the plane. “Here’s the problem with dentistry: nobody asks follow-up questions…” If they do, she tells them that her parents are dentists. “If there’s anything scarier than a dental professional, it’s a family of dental professionals.”

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But Nate — or Sweater Vest, as she called her nerdy seatmate — becomes more talkative and desirable as the flight progresses and the champagne is poured. In Paris, they meet for dinner and end up spending the night together at his hotel. In the morning, Nate is gone and so are the sketches.

Nate goes from being the No. 1 suspect to his cohort in the hunt for the art. They receive a series of mysterious clues in poems that take them all over Paris: the Panthéon, Galeries Lafayette, Montmartre and Notre-Dame. The clues revolve around Joan of Arc. Joan Blakely is named after her, and she and her father have shared many outings in search of books and memorabilia related to Joan of Arc.

The writing is sharp, intelligent and interesting. The book reminds me of a less deadly, more fun version of “The DaVinci Code”. Anyone who has visited Paris will revel in the descriptions of the streets, meals, wines and monuments. The author pretty much wraps it all up at the end, with a few surprises that I didn’t see coming.

But this book is also heartbreaking in the places where Joan reflects on her father’s death. In the end, she has a lot to look forward to, but will always carry the loss of her father in her heart. This aspect makes this book much more than a “light read”.

Penny A Parrish is a freelance writer in Stafford County.

Penny A Parrish is a freelance writer in Stafford County.

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