Escape From Paris
By Carolyn Hart
Seventh Street Books/Prometheus
Reviewed by Karl Wolff
France under German occupation is the setting for Carolyn Hart’s novel, Escape From Paris. Set in 1940, with England going it alone against the Nazi juggernaut, two American sisters, Linda Rossiter and Eleanor Masson, decide to resist oppression and tyranny by moving downed British fighter pilots out of France. The Nazis will have none of it, plastering notices all around Paris that those harboring British pilots have to deliver them to the Kommandantur no later than October 20 or face summary execution. The stakes are high and both sides play a game of cat and mouse.
Seventh Street Books, a new imprint from Prometheus Books, focuses on mysteries and thrillers. Prometheus has traditionally published science fiction and fantasy titles. In this case, they have re-issued and expanded Carolyn Hart’s 1983 story of romantic suspense. At first blush I saw the words “romantic suspense” and started to gag. Romance, as a genre, has gotten a bad rap these days and with sub-standard titles like Twilight and Fifty Shades of Grey, I was a prejudiced reader. Luckily Hart’s book delivered a tightly constructed tale of suspense and had a genuinely romantic sub-plot involving Linda and a British pilot she is harboring. Even the villain is believable and portrayed as a human being. Major Erich Krause heads the Paris section of the Gestapo and is tasked with eliminating the British pilots and their treasonous enablers. He meets his match when he deals with the two sisters, since they are American citizens and he can only do so much. (The United States and Germany still weren’t officially at war, thus any harm done to the sisters would cause Major Krause a serious diplomatic headache.) The crux of the suspense focuses on the creation of a reliable resistance network and moving the pilots across the Demarkation Line, the line dividing Occupied France from Vichy France.
Major Krause is a believable character, like the sisters and the pilots, in that he has lost loved ones in the War. He is also a veteran of the Great War and puts high value on military valor. It is nice to see a Nazi villain not come across as a sadistic caricature. But just because he is portrayed with human depth doesn’t mean he’s a nice individual. He is a racist, an anti-Semite, and not above using “enhanced interrogation” techniques to get information he requires.
I enjoyed reading Escape From Paris, because it was reassuring to see a traditional suspense novel done well. This might sound like I’m damning the novel with faint praise. I’m not. I give the novel high marks because it was well written, tightly plotted, and populated with believable characters. It makes splendid summer reading. There are spectacular dog fights, a harrowing prison scene, and ferocious verbal confrontations. The only drawback relate to the confines of the genre. Hart writes “cozy mysteries” and these aren’t for everyone.
Out of 10/8.5, higher for fans of suspense.