In this debut thriller, an American banker’s business trip to Paris finds him unwittingly entangled in an embezzler’s deadly revenge plot.
Paul Hart’s boss at Calhoun Capital in New York, James Hutchens, sends him to Paris to take a closer look at Renard Industries. CEO Claude Renard is a client at Calhoun, but as his current holdings are “minimal,” Hutchens wants him to move more money to the American company. Once in Paris, Hart initially meets Renard’s director of affairs, Clara Nouvelle, who essentially vets him on her boss’s behalf. Hart is understandably anxious. He has no strategy for gathering information on Renard Industries, and Hutchens has even implied that Hart’s career is at stake. But Hart finds solace in Clara, and he falls for the beguiling, self-assured woman in no time. The business trip takes an unexpected turn after Clara and Hart head to London for “a black-tie charity auction.” It’s an opportunity for Hart to meet associates of Renard’s, including his London banker, Igor Romanski. Hart doesn’t trust Igor, in part for his apparent smugness and aggressive mannerisms. But readers know that Igor has been embezzling money and laundering it for quite some time in London. And he has even bigger plans, including some type of revenge that includes an attack. As Igor’s scheme soon entails outright murder, Hart is in imminent danger. He also realizes that someone’s deception has put him in trouble with the Parisian authorities, and he may have to clear his name, provided he can stay alive.
Though Flynn’s novel has little action or suspense, the plot moves at a steady clip. Hart is in Paris relatively quickly while his romance with Clara is almost instantaneous. The protagonist’s backstory is captivating: Dating Hutchens’ daughter, Veronica, led to his Calhoun job. Despite Veronica dumping Hart, Hutchens has continued to employ him. This makes Hart a vulnerable and sympathetic character, especially in light of Hutchens vaguely threatening his position at Calhoun. Although Hart concentrates on and periodically ogles Clara’s physical traits, she is a resourceful character whose many attributes gradually come to light, especially in the final act. The author shrewdly keeps the characters to a minimum and the story largely free of complications, like extraneous subplots. While this approach produces a clearly defined good guy and bad guy (Hart and Igor), there’s an overall wariness among other characters. More than one individual, for example, has been keeping secrets from Hart. Those secrets ultimately result in several plot twists, though at least a couple are ones readers will easily predict. Still, that doesn’t hamper the action when it finally arrives in the form of a shootout, a car chase, and more. Throughout the book, Flynn rigorously details environments, like scenes in London: “Continuing towards the Thames, they emerged from the smaller, narrow streets into an open square….Apartments were being refurbished, and dumpsters and heavy machinery were scattered about, the old brick buildings surrounding them looking in dire need of repair.”
A tale of white-collar crime that crackles with energy.