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8 thrilling books set in Paris

Dark intrigue always works better with an elegant backdrop. And writing The Winter Agent, my fact-based novel about British agents in occupied Paris racing to uncover a mole within Allied intelligence and save D-Day, I became fascinated by fiction set in the underbelly of such an ornate city. Want to join me? Then open one or two of these thrilling books set in Paris:

A Long Night in Paris by Dov Alfon

A Long Night In Paris by Dov Alfon (2019)

Former Israeli intelligence officer Alfon’s breakneck-speed tale of a soldier who disappears in plain sight at Charles De Gaulle airport won all sorts of prizes last year. On the surface about cyber-warfare, at the heart of the story is greed and human vice.

Dangerous Liaisons by Pierre Choderlos de Laclos

Les Liaisons Dangereuses by Pierre Choderlos de Laclos (1782)

Steamy sexual intrigue as a competitive sport, intrigue as a method of destroying one’s friends as well as one’s enemies, the evil boredom of the rich – all conspire to make Laclos’s epistolary novel a poison-dripping pleasure.

The Day of the Jackal by Frederick Forsyth

The Day Of The Jackal by Frederick Forsyth (1971)

Still the touchstone for books about cool-as-ice assassins, Forsyth’s story of a mysterious Englishman hired to shoot De Gaulle takes its time to build, as we watch The Jackal slowly amass his materials and develop his plan.

The Murders in the Rue Morgue and Other Tales by Edgar Allan Poe

Murders in the Rue Morgue by Edgar Allen Poe (1841)

Generally held up as the first modern detective tale, Poe’s Gothic-horror sensibilities are also on display when you finally discover who – or what – has carried out the murders. And the story defines the genre, with a brilliant detective using deduction to uncover the solution and his less-clever sidekick narrating the events.

The Lollipop Shoes by Joanne Harris

The Lollipop Shoes by Joanne Harris (2007)

This dark sequel to Harris’s Chocolat takes her heroine Vianne Rocher to the Paris hilltop village of Montmartre. But a mysterious stranger insinuates herself into Vianne’s life – and that of her children. And she won’t take no for an answer.

A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens

A Tale Of Two Cities by Charles Dickens (1859)

Dickens’ most exciting yarn by far. It’s a swashbuckling Boy’s Own adventure of mass-murder and daring rescue during the most brutal period of the French Revolution. Unforgettable characters include the malevolent Madame Defarges, who sits silently knitting while her victims are dragged to the guillotine.

The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown

The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown (2003)

The denouement of the meg-hit thriller of religious fanatics and hidden messages take place at the Louvre, perhaps the most beautiful royal palace in Europe. A great holiday read, you rush through it faster than Robert Langdon pursued by an albino monk.

The Phantom of the Opera by Gaston Leroux

The Phantom Of The Opera by Gaston Leroux (1909)

Cast aside your musical adaptation prejudices, the original novel is a much more intriguing piece of work. The fruit of journalist Leroux’s investigation of rumours and strange true events surrounding the Palais Garnier opera house, it’s a tragic tale of obsession and outcasts.

What are your favourite books set in Paris? Let us know in the comments below!

The Winter Agent

Gareth Rubin

Gareth Rubin, author of The Winter Agent
Gareth Rubin, author of The Winter Agent
Gareth Rubin

Gareth Rubin is an author and journalist who has written for most British national newspapers. He lives in London, and The Winter Agent is his second novel.

Follow Gareth on Twitter.

1 Comment

    Alan Furst has written a few espionage tales based in Paris around the time of WWII. Although not as enjoyable as some of his others based elsewhere in Europe, they are still well worth reading.

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