"A gripping and tragic story"
Reviewed by Magdalena Johansson
Posted November 27, 2017
THE PARIS SECRET is such a fabulous book. From the start,
the story engrossed me as Flora, a fine art agent from
London, arrived in Paris together with her boss to visit an
apartment that has been locked since World War II. What
secrets does the apartment have? Why has the apartment been
locked and forgotten for so long time? But as Flora begins
investigating the history of the paintings that are found in
the apartment, she realizes maybe the apartment was left
that way for a reason.
The most amazing thing is that this is just not a
make-believe story. The story in this book may be fiction,
but they have actually found an apartment in Paris that was
locked and forgotten since World War II. That is such an
eye-catching situation that I'm not at all surprised authors
want to write books about it. THE PARIS SECRET is not the
first of its kind, but the richness of the story just kept
me going the entire time.
This story does not jump in time or rely on flashbacks.
Everything that happens takes place in present time. And,
despite being a big fan of dual storylines was I pleased
about it since I liked the storyline in the present so much
and enjoyed discovering the past together with Flora. Now,
the one thing that bothered me was the obvious love story,
or rather the fact that Flora's brother is in some legal
trouble that will cause a problem in her life later on. Now,
I know this is in the story to cause some drama, but the
main story about the paintings was interesting enough that I
would have preferred Flora's love life to take a less
central role in this book. I'm not totally against her
romantic entanglement, but it gets so over-the-top with her
never before being in love, and suddenly he's there; dark
and mysterious. I was so fascinated with the Vermeil
family's past that the sideline story about Flora's brother
often felt like a distraction, especially since she is told
early on in the book what the problem is, but the reader is
kept in the dark. It annoyed me more than thrilled me.
Nevertheless, despite my objections to Flora's love story,
THE PARIS SECRET is a great book. It's a tragic story that
captivated me all through. I loved discovering the truth
together with Flora and seeing the apartment's treasures
through her eyes. I definitely want to read more Karen Swan
In this glittering tale of forgotten treasures and long-
secrets, international bestseller Karen Swan explores one
woman’s journey to discovering the truth behind an
apartment and a family whose mysteries may be better left
When high-powered fine art agent Flora Sykes is called in
assess objets d’art in a Paris apartment that has been
abandoned since WWII, she is skeptical at first—until she
discovers that under decades of dust the treasure trove of
paintings is myriad…and priceless. The powerful Vermeil
family to whom they belong is eager to learn more and asks
Flora to trace the history of each and every painting.
Despite a shocking announcement that has left her own
reeling, Flora finds herself thrown into the rarified and
glamorous world of the Vermeils. But she soon realizes
there is more to this project than first appears and as
researches the provenance of their prize Renoir, she
uncovers a scandal surrounding not only the painting, but
secret that goes to the very heart of the family itself.
fallout will place Flora in the eye of a storm that
her from London to Vienna to the glittering coast of
Xavier Vermeil, the brusque scion of the family, is
determined to separate Flora from his family’s affairs in
spite of the powerful attraction that propels them to one
another. Just what are the secrets he is desperately
to hide? And what price is Flora willing to pay to uncover
the devastating truth…?
Paris, July 2016
Clouds bearded the moon and the horizon was still inky,
with every one of the world-famous lights turned off, save
for the beacon at the top of the distinctive tower that
distinguished the famous city even in the dark. The two
men moved unseen on the mansard roofs, keeping their heads
below the ridge line, bodies curled inwards like autumn
leaves, their stealthy footsteps no more than the mere
padding of cats to the sleeping inhabitants of the
Catching sight of their mark on the other side of the
street, they stopped and crouched between the dormers,
their eyes counting down the number of windows echoed in
the matching buildings across the street. In silence, they
spooled out the rope, the carabiners clipped on their
harnesses clattering together like chimes as they moved—
sure-footed, pulses up—and anchored themselves to the
The first man stepped over the edge, feeling that familiar
rush as gravity exerted its might and the rope tightened;
he paused for a second, checking that everything would
hold, before dropping down below the roofline, pushing off
from the wall with his feet every few meters.
The other man followed and within a minute, they were
there—the dust-screened windows which had first caught
their attention, every bit as obscured, close up, as they
had hoped. The Juliet balcony outside it was shallow, wide
enough only for a potted rose, but it was sufficient for a
foothold and they swung their legs over the intricate
balustrade. Standing with their feet parallel to the wall,
they could angle their body weight into the building and
each of them cupped his hands around his face, trying to
peer past the obfuscated glass. But it was like trying to
see through smoke.
In the distance, a siren sounded and both men stiffened,
their reflexes sharp as they tracked which direction it
was coming from—and where it was heading to.
Not here. That was all they needed to know.
They resumed their efforts to get in, gloved hands on the
doors. There was no handle on the outside and the inner,
left-facing, door didn’t budge, but the outer one rattled
lightly, showing it was loose. Loose enough, anyway. These
doors were old—the wood rotting, the single-glazing so
thin they could crack it with a sneeze. But even that
wouldn’t be necessary. The first man had bent his knees
and, his eye level with the latch, could clearly see the
thin metal arm of an oldfashioned hook that was the only
thing keeping the outside out. He grabbed his knife from
his back pocket and jimmying it into the gap, quickly
flicked it upwards. The hook swung up, round and back,
knocking lightly against itself.
They were in. It was that easy—a sharp eye, a rope and a
The doors were stiff with neglect, the hinges protesting
with loud creaks as they were forced back, but open they
did and both men stepped onto the parquet floor. They
twisted their headlamps on and, unclipping themselves from
the ropes, began to move silently through the empty rooms.
The air was so stale it almost had a physical texture to
it and they couldn’t help but cough, even though the need
for silence was paramount. That wasn’t all they disturbed—
their footsteps on the dusty floor recorded their path
through the apartment like tracks in the snow, but who
would ever see? It was obvious no one apart from them knew
this place was still here. It was hidden in plain sight,
the neighbors’ apathy no doubt perpetuating the secret,
everyone working on the assumption that it belonged to
someone else; that it was someone else’s problem. You
couldn’t just lose an apartment, after all; couldn’t
forget you owned it.
But someone had.
The first man stopped in the kitchen. A single chair lay
on its side on the floor, a dresser stood bare, its hooks
like curled, arthritic fingers with nothing to hold. There
wasn’t a pot or a pan, a bucket or mop. The place had been
Disappointed, they walked further down the hall, their
twin beams of light crossing over each other like dueling
swords in the blackness as they continued to search.
Both men stopped at the threshold to the bedroom. An iron
bedstead was pushed against the back wall but that wasn’t
what quickened their pulses. A large wooden crate stood at
the end, the lid splintered from where it had been levered
off, a crowbar still on the bed slats.
They hurried over, the first man squinting as he read a
small sheet of paper stapled to the inside. The
handwritten script had faded in the sun but there was a
company name and oval logo on the top and it looked like
some kind of proforma docket.
Behind him, the second man tripped over something on the
floor and lurched heavily into the end of the bed. He
swore and looked back irritably, picking up the offending
article. He had thought it just a rag, but on closer
inspection saw it was a child’s toy—a cloth duck
comforter, its stuffed head bald from overuse, the terry
cloth bleached with age and thick with dust. The man
immediately sneezed, letting it drop to the floor again.
So much for silence, his companion thought. They might as
well just hold a party and invite the neighbors.
“Holy shit,” he whispered, shining a light into the crate
as he stared in.
The second man hurried over, his flashlight too flooding
the dark cavity with light.
Both men stared, open-mouthed, at what was inside. It was
more than they could have dreamed of.
“Quick. Let’s get her out.”
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