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By: Juliet Blackwell
Publication Date: September 2016
Publisher: Berkeley Books
Reviewed by: Diane Lunsford
Review Date: September 20, 2016
Juliet Blackwell takes her audience on a journey to Paris in her latest novel, Letters from Paris.
Claire Broussard survived the accident that took her mother’s life. When she was old enough, she worked hard to leave her small Louisiana home behind in her rearview mirror. Sadly, the benefits of a great job and relationship in Chicago couldn’t keep her from returning to her roots and caring for her ailing grandmother. Little did she know the unearthing of the captivating sculpture her great-grandfather sent home from Paris after World War II would be the catalyst to launch her on a journey once more far away from her Louisiana home.
Claire’s grandmother is on her deathbed. She urges Claire to go to Paris and solve the mystery of ‘L’Inconnue’ (The Unknown Woman). Once in Paris, Claire begins her assimilation into an environment quite foreign and out of her comfort zone. The Lombardi family is a legacy of talented sculptors who create death masks. In due time, Claire learns this was the birthplace of the mask her great-grandfather had acquired many decades before. What Claire hadn’t bargained for was a job working at the Lombardi shop as a translator to the English speaking tourists on holiday who frequented the shop. As time unfolds, Claire realizes not only must she solve the mystery of The Unknown Woman, but she must also break down the walls Armand Lombardi has erected. In a unique course of events, Claire learns her journey to Paris would deliver much more than the answers to the mystery of the woman behind L’Inconnue.
With a cache of works under her belt, Juliet Blackwell confidently delivers her latest novel. The place is Paris and she does a delightful job of tying the iconic Belle Epoch era together with present day. Her eye toward detail and historical information concerning the process and reason behind the creation of ‘death masks’ is superb. Ms. Blackwell strategically weaves the facts into the storyline and creates a tandem life between Claire Broussard and Sabine (the model of L’Inconnue). The complexities of the lives of both characters complement the story in that the reader can ease into the story and listen to Blackwell’s voice as the tale unfolds. The scenery is romantic and the credibility of situations is spot on. There is a terrific balance of dialogue and ample and descriptive scenery to move the reader along from one conversation to the next. Toward the book’s end, Blackwell throws a terrific and quite unpredictable ‘left hook’ that will delight her audience with a fantastic ‘aha’ moment. Well done Ms. Blackwell! I look forward to your next book.
Quill says: Letters from Paris is a wonderful account of perseverance and the quest for answers.