welcome to #ReadWith™—at Marie Claire virtual book club. It’s nice to have you! In March we read Lucy Foley The Parisian apartment, a mystery centered on the main character Jess who realizes that her half-brother Ben is missing when she arrives in Paris to visit him. Read an excerpt from the novel below, then find out how to join our virtual book club here. (You really don’t have to leave your couch!)
For heaven’s sake, Ben. Answer the phone. I’m freezing my boobs here. My Eurostar was two hours late from London; I should have arrived at 10:30 a.m. but it’s just past midnight. And it’s cold tonight, even colder here in Paris than it was in London. It’s only late October but my breath is smoking in the air and my toes are numb in my boots. It’s crazy to think there was a heat wave just a few weeks ago. I need a proper coat. But there’s always been a lot of things I need that I’ll never get.
I’ve probably called Ben 10 times now: when my Eurostar arrives, half an hour’s walk from Gare du Nord. No answer. And he didn’t answer any of my texts. Thanks for nothing, big brother.
He said he would be there to let me in. I will wait for you…”
Well, here I am. Here, a paved, dimly lit cul-de-sac in what appears to be a very posh neighborhood. The building in front of me closes this end, all by itself.
I glance down the deserted street. Next to a parked car, about 20 feet away, I think I see the shadows moving. I move away to try to see better. There’s… I squint, trying to make out the shape. I could swear there’s someone over there, crouched behind the car.
I jump as a siren sounds a few streets away, loudly in the silence. Hear the sound fade into the night. It’s different from the ones at home – “nee-naw, nee-naw”, like a child’s impression – but it still makes my heart beat a little faster.
I glance at the dark area behind the parked car. Now I can’t see any movement, I can’t even see the shape I thought I saw before. Maybe it was just an illusion of light after all.
“The Parisian apartment”
I look at the building again. The others on this street are beautiful, but this one hits them all. It is set back from the road behind a large gate with a high wall on each side, hiding what must be some sort of garden or courtyard. Five or six floors, huge windows, all with wrought iron balconies. A large spread of ivy growing all over the front that looks like a creeping dark patch. If I crane my neck I can see what could be a rooftop garden, the pointed shapes of trees and shrubs outlined in black against the night sky.
I recheck the address. Number 12, rue des Amants. I’m certainly right. I still can’t believe that fancy building is where Ben lives. He said a companion helped him with the problem, someone he had known since he was a student. But Ben still managed to land on his feet. I guess it makes sense that he managed to find his way into a place like this. And the charm had to do it. I know journalists probably earn more than bartenders, but not as much.
The metal door in front of me has a brass lion’s head knocker: the big metal ring held between growling teeth. Along the top of the door, I notice, are a bunch of anti-climb spikes. And all along the high wall, on either side of the door, shards of glass are embedded. These security measures seem a bit at odds with the elegance of the building.
I lift the knocker, cold and heavy in my hand, let it fall. The sound of it bounces off the cobblestones, so much louder than expected in the silence. In fact, it’s so quiet and dark here that it’s hard to imagine it’s part of the same city I drove through tonight from Gare du Nord: all the bright lights and the crowds, the people entering and leaving restaurants and bars. I think of the neighborhood around that huge, illuminated cathedral on the hill, the Sacred Heart, which I passed under just twenty minutes ago: crowds of tourists taking selfies and sleazy guys in down jackets weaving their way between them , ready to steal a wallet or two. And the streets I walked through with the neon signs, the loud music, the food all night long, the crowds coming out of the bars, the queues for the clubs. It’s a different universe. I look at the street behind me: not another person in sight. The only real sound comes from dead ivy running across the cobblestones. I hear the roar of traffic in the distance, the honking of cars, but even that sounds muffled, as if he wouldn’t dare intrude into this elegant, hushed world.
I didn’t stop to think much, dragging my suitcase across town from the station. I was mostly focused on not getting mugged, or letting the broken wheel on my suitcase stick and throw me off balance. But now, for the first time, I understand: I am here, in Paris. Another city, another country. I did it. I left my old life behind me.
A light comes on in one of the windows above. I look up and there is a dark figure standing there, head and shoulders in silhouette. Well? If it was him, however, he would surely wave to me. I know that I must be illuminated by the nearby street lamp. But the figure at the window is as motionless as a statue. I do not distinguish any characteristic or even if it is a man or a woman. But they look at me. They must be. Guess I must be looking pretty shabby and out of place with my old broken suitcase trying to open despite the bungee cord wrapped around it. A strange feeling, knowing that they can see me but I can’t see them properly. I look down.
Ah. To the right of the door, I see a small panel of buttons for the different apartments with a lens attached inside. The big lion head knocker should just be for show. I step forward and press the third-floor one, Ben’s. I wait for his voice to crackle over the intercom.
Book’s extract The Parisian apartment: A novel by Lucy Foley. Copyright © 2022 by Lucy Foley. By William Morrow, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers. Reprinted with permission.