Title: The Paris Collaborator
Author: A.W. Hammond
Genre: Historical fiction; Thriller
Publisher: Echo Publishing
Published: May 2021
Is anyone else on a spy/mystery/thriller binge? If so, add The Paris Collaborator to your TBR pile! A.W. Hammond’s debut novel scratched my itch with its setting in captivating Paris during the Nazi occupation in 1944, its short—but quick-paced—timeline, and its twist and turns in the plot.
The story is told from the perspective of former teacher, Auguste Duchene, who now searches for missing children; however, Duchene does not go unnoticed by the French Resistance—who want Duchene to locate a missing priest and a cache of stolen weapons—and the Nazis—who want Duchene to locate a missing soldier—and both sides blackmail him with threats to his daughter Marienne’s life. It does not help that Marienne has taken a Nazi as a lover…but despite Duchene’s displeasure of Marienne’s companion choice, he undertakes both tasks determined to deliver all goods by the 48-hour deadline.
The war-time background is captivating but does not dominate the novel with facts. Rather, Hammond seamlessly weaves in historical titbits in an entertaining and captivating manner, such as issues with rationing, joblessness, and uncertainties about who you can trust. The allies and the enemies are not clear cut. Although the Nazis are never glorified, the French Resistance is not always glorified for their actions either. This uncertainty is instantly shown when both the Nazis and the French Resistance blackmail Duchene to find what they seek. In addition, Hammond shows how far peoples’ morals can be pushed when they are desperate, and how cruel others can be to judge. For example, one character, a beautiful young lady, had to turn to prostitution in order to feed herself, and for this she was shunned by her church and cast out. This was a small plotline that could easily be lost in the fast-paced novel, but it struck a chord with me because it truly demonstrated how desperate the situation was for some and how unmoved others were for their plight. While we know Duchene’s thoughts throughout, I could not help but be suspicious of each character that was introduced: are they a collaborator? Are they a sympathiser? Or are they someone who just wants to survive?
Since I don’t want to give away any spoilers, I shall not reveal much more, but note that the final twist at the end had my head spinning and my stomach lurching. Up until that point, I was not too shocked by the content, but it left a lasting impression. Although I am not a fan of book comparisons, the blurbs comparison of the novel to All the Light We Cannot See and The Da Vinci Code is spot on. So, while the cold weather is keeping us snuggled indoors, grab yourself a copy of The Paris Collaborator, and let me know if the ending is what you expected…