The Paris Lawyer by Sylvie Granotier is an absorbing and enjoyable novel. If you’ve never read French literature before – and many of us haven’t, a fact greatly begrudged by French writers who suffer from being tarred with the same brush as French cinema which, rightly or wrongly, is famous for being depressing and boring – then this is a good book to start with.
Heroine Catherine Monsigny has fleeting memories of the murder of her mother, which happened when she was a toddler. This happens in the quiet, rural département of Creuse (my home). She is now a dedicated and ambitious lawyer in France, travelling to her cases on her scooter and living an independent life. However, she is called back to the Creuse, to the very same area where her mother was killed, to deal with a case involving Myriam Villetreix, who is accused of poisoning the rich man who married her to save her from deportation.
Not surprisingly, returning to the scene of her childhood trauma stirs up painful memories for Catherine. She becomes deeply concerned with discovering more about her mother, believing this will help her understand how she herself us. It is thus a multi-layered novel. There is contrast between bustling, pressured urban Paris and the usually peaceful, relaxed atmosphere of Creuse. You couldn’t find two more different areas of the same country. There is also contrast between Catherine’s need to find out the truth about her mother, to bring things to the surface, and her father’s desire to keep the past well buried. Fabulous.
It is difficult to say a great deal about this story without giving too much away. It is part psychological thriller, part self-discovery, part crime fiction. It is peopled by rounded, compelling characters, brilliantly structured and a gripping, rewarding read.