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The Paris Secret by Karen Swan

Art. Mystery. Romance.

Everything you expected from Paris, and more. 

Beautiful marketing by the team @PGCBooks 

Despite the title, The Paris Secret is not wholly set in The City of Light. Rather, Karen Swan's latest novel spans Paris, Vienna, Antibes, and London, and takes you on an adventure that uncovers both hidden pasts, and secrets of epic proportions. 

Down a Paris cobbled street, a long-forgotten dust cloaked apartment is found. But there is more to the story; there is a secret -- the apartment contains contains priceless art that dates back to Vichy France. Why did Madame Vermeil's father-in-law keep the apartment hidden from his family, with only a letter that outlined it's whereabouts and specific instructions that it not be accessed until after his wife's death? 

So, how does the secret come out? After the property has been broken into, the letter is forwarded to the family informing them of the apartment's existence. Although Madame Vermeil's mother-in-law is alive, she is eager to see what's in the apartment. Her father-in-law was an astute man and art was his entire world. 

Enter our protagonist Flora, a fine art adviser and auctioneer, who receives a frantic message from her boss Angus, telling her she has to be in Paris first thing in the morning. If there's art in the apartment, then they need to verify it's authenticity. And there is, a long lost Renoir. 

From the onset it's hard not to like Flora. Caring, smart, ambitious, independent, with detective skills to impress. She's like a grown up Nancy Drew. She's not a girly girl, but can hold her own in any setting (well, almost); and she's not pining over love, so it doesn't feel like an overarching (and dare I say formulaic) love story. That being said, one criticism of the book is that towards its latter half the story leans towards the sentimental. 

Karen Swan is a good writer. She has put passion into the Parisian landscape with √©lan. And having just been to Paris last year, her beautiful prose placed me back into those perfectly unforgettable moments. 

"Judging by the number of Vespas and bikes propped around the honey-coloured walls, everyone in the building was home -- even those who'd been out for the evening. Her travel bag clattered noisily over the scrubbed cobbles as she walked towards the apartments at that far end, her eyes too weary to notice the night-blossoming jasmine climbing the walls, her mind too distracted to hear the distant music that tumbled into the space and filled it like coloured vapour." 

As Flora begins to uncover the secrets of the Vermeil's past, she discovers things aren't all that they seem. The glamorous family has a hidden past, one that could destroy them if exposed. Then there's Xavier Vermeil and his sister Natascha, the bratty siblings of the family, who seem to bring out the worst in Flora. At one point, her job is even threatened because of them: with Xavier intent on forcing Flora out of his family's affairs. Hence the question remains: what is he hiding? 

As tensions mount, and she starts to trace the history of each painting and identify the source of concealment, the boundaries start getting blurry for Flora, as her job begins to bring her closer and closer to the family. She struggles to separate her emotions from the facts, trying to convince herself that this troubled powerful family was not her concern. 

"Art is the lie that tells us the truth" ~ Picasso 

Not every door should be opened, but you will want to open this one because the course of this epic mystery will stay with you. 

Books & Wine Pairing: Pair Karan Swan's A Paris Secret with E. Guigal Crozes-Hermitage 2012 Shiraz/Syrah. Wine Review at 

The Paris Secret is published by Pan Books and distributed in Canada by PGC Books and Raincoast Books

Blog post by @ShilpaRaikar (Creative and Social Media strategist, decor enthusiast and book lover, who also writes for a branding blog:, as well as a lifestyle blog: T: @SukasaStyle) 

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