It’s a noir novel, as well as a police novel, that takes place in Paris in 1919 during the Peace Conference when world powers were struggling to secure peace and divvy up empires. There is no main protagonist, since it includes real historical characters, such as Winston Churchill, Clemenceu, President Wilson, etc., as well as other fictional characters from different countries and fields all trying to eke out their own success and using others to achieve their aims. The fictional characters include a Spanish correspondent, a freelance reporter, a speculator and his lover, a US congressman, an activist and exiled Russians, among others. The changes taking place contrive to put obstacles in their path, as they scramble to gain information, prosperity and power. They’re all players making deals in various parts of Paris, where there is chaos and panic. In the midst of it all, an investigation ensues after an assassination, which will bring to light the myriad conflicts stemming from so many countries coming together to defend their very diverging interests.
The author’s style is simple, yet elegant, using fluid dialogue. He balances various stories at once, alternating between them and dealing with human conflicts that are political, economical and even sentimental.
What is unusual is the manner in which the author uses various story lines to give a birdseye view of the conflicts and struggles that took place during the Paris Peace Conference.
The two World Wars are a common theme to the structure of today’s world, and the author is basically delving into the power struggles that took place after the first war. In the interim, he inserts concurrent story lines and avoids using a single main character.
I didn’t feel that there was predictability in the plotline, but it did provide variety. The concurrent story lines come together in the end, but I didn’t feel that they blended well together. I found myself wondering when they would converge.