In addition to residents who are creepy schemers, this Paris apartment also houses a pile of lies, closets full of skeletons, shadowy figures and dank cellars. “Jess…don’t do it…don’t enter the building!” we cry. But enter she does, triggering the page turning plot of The Paris Apartment.
There a lot to talk about with this murder mystery, so uncork the red, set out the brie and get ready for a juicy book club discussion. Our discussion guide for The Paris Apartment will help you pick apart and examine those lies, shadows and skeletons. Fuel your conversation with 10 The Paris Apartment book club questions, a book synopsis and some controversial reviews.
And if you want more murder or to further explore the dark side of Paris, we’ve also got three related reads that you can add to your reading pile.
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The Paris Apartment Synopsis
(We always chose to provide the publisher synopsis because we feel that it’s worthwhile to discuss whether the official book description actually squared with your experience of the book.)
The Paris Apartment, by Lucy Foley
Jess needs a fresh start. She’s broke and alone, and she’s just left her job under less than ideal circumstances. Her half-brother Ben didn’t sound thrilled when she asked if she could crash with him for a bit, but he didn’t say no, and surely everything will look better from Paris. Only when she shows up – to find a very nice apartment, could Ben really have afforded this? – he’s not there.
The longer Ben stays missing, the more Jess starts to dig into her brother’s situation, and the more questions she has. Ben’s neighbors are an eclectic bunch, and not particularly friendly. Jess may have come to Paris to escape her past, but it’s starting to look like it’s Ben’s future that’s in question.
The socialite – The nice guy – The alcoholic – The girl on the verge – The concierge
Everyone’s a neighbor. Everyone’s a suspect. And everyone knows something they’re not telling.
10 The Paris Apartment Book Club Questions
- “It’s a beautiful building, but there’s something rotten at its heart. Now that he’s discovered it, he can smell the stench of it everywhere”. This descriptive quote from Ben comes early in the book. How did you find the descriptive writing? What did you like/dislike about it?
- “Benjamin Daniels, he destroyed everything”, says Sophie. The concierge also says that he “changed everything”. These early quotes foreshadow what is to come. What does this foreshadowing add suspense and narrative?
- Ben’s sister Jess is also treated as an intrusion into the building. As an outsider, they find her suspicious and in turn, she finds them a riddle. How does her outsider status help to drive the story?
- “You cannot do anything in this building without half-expecting the concierge to appear from some dark corner, as if formed from the shadows themselves”, says Sophie. What is the role of the concierge, and how does she add to the mood of the story?
- The concierge believes that because she and Sophie have lived in the building for so long, they’ve become invisible, part of the scenery. Is that true?
- Jacques is an elusive character and yet he has all of the power over the family? He controls his wife, infantilizes his sons and ignores his daughter. Discuss some of the ways that he controls them and how it affects what ultimately happens.
- Do a rundown on the characters. Which is your most/least favorite? What are they hiding? What did you find intriguing about those secrets? And how are they expressing emotions like shame, pride, disgust, deprivation, yearning, obsession, rage, loneliness and grief?
- Holy smokes, Nick’s not dead!?! What did you think of the twist? And also the even twistier twist regarding Jacques’ new resting place in the garden?
- From Sophie at the end of the book—“I didn’t free myself when I married my husband…as I’d thought. I didn’t elevate myself, I did the exact opposite. I married my pimp: I chained myself to him for life.” Was that a free choice or is she a victim?
- Have you read other books set in Paris? How did this compare in structure, setting and character development?
Selected Reviews of The Paris Apartment
“Meh. The Paris Apartment feels mostly like melodramatic dithering, but I guess I was somewhat entertained…After all that exaggerated writing, do the twists deliver? Eh, they seem pretty standard to me for the genre. I wasn’t really surprised or shocked. In fact, it feels more ridiculous than anything else.”
“…I hope Foley just keeps doing what she’s doing. This is her lane. It works so well. She is absolutely freaking fantastic at whipping up a high velocity, tense, atmospheric, drama-infused mystery and I am so here for it!”
“Overall though, there are a couple of great twists that surprised me and elevated the story beyond the run-of-the-mill thriller. It’s entertaining and fast paced and you never know who to trust and who is telling the truth (or what they believe is the truth.”
“Unfortunately, as more and more characters were introduced the pace slowed down, their stories got drawn out and convoluted, and I started to lose some interest. By the middle, I felt like all the narrators were just trying to outdo themselves during the telling of a tall tale.”
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3 Books Like The Paris Apartment
If you’d like more dark and twisty thriller with messed-up families, try A Flicker in the Dark, The Silent Patient and Verity. Each guide has a synopsis toward the top of the article.
The Guest List, Lucy Foley
If you loved the book, then you should back up and also read The Guest List (for which we have a discussion guide). It’s got a lot of locked room mystery tension and delicious rich people problems. It’s set on a moody Irish island with a castle that’s used for weddings. You know up front that a murder occurred, but the book spends the pages examining the motives of the wedding guests. It’s a whodunnit with a further question of whogotdone.
The Elegance of the Hedgehog, Muriel Barbery
This book is less twisty and murdery than The Paris Apartment, but there are still plenty of secrets. It’s set in a Paris apartment building and there are some mysterious doings afoot with the residents. Renée, the invisible concierge sees it all and an unlikely friendship develops between her and 12-year old Paloma, who’s a troubled resident of the building.
The Yellow Eyes of Crocodiles, Katherine Pancol
With William Rodarmor and Helen Dickinson (translators)
This is a good pick if you want a Paris setting imbued with more family pressures and the corrupting power of money.
When Josephine’s husband takes off on an improbable boondoggle to start a croc farm in Kenya, she is forced to figure out how to make ends meet. She’s never made quite enough money as a 12th century researcher. So when her author sister cooks up a scheme to have Josephine pen her next historical novel, she reluctantly agrees.
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