Angela Henry’s The Paris Secret (Carina Press) is engaging entertainment, fluidly written, bright, airtight, and moves at a brisk pace. Henry (www.angelahenry.com), ace author of the hit series of Kendra Clayton mysteries, has shown with her novels The Company You Keep, Tangled Roots, Diva’s Last Curtain Call, Schooled In Lies and Sly, Slick & Wicked, a handful of deftly crafted whodunits, that she’s brilliant at breathing fresh life in the old art form.
Her recipe for real good reading: start with a clearly drawn main character, toss her in a pot of deadly circumstance, then stir in twists and turns of completely unexpected events, each more interesting than the one before. In fact, Maya Sinclair, the daring, if not quite dauntless protagonist of The Paris Secret could be Kendra’s cousin. She’s a bit more on the ball, but they’re both mule-headed, neither has much luck with boyfriends, and each attract trouble like a magnet, haplessly stumbling through pitfalls landing on her feet with more lives than a cat.
Tales of the intrepid Kendra Clayton are set in the fairly innocuous surroundings in small-town, Ohio. We meet Maya as she’s settling down in Paris, preparing to go idly traipsing about the tourist sights of the City of Love, where she has wound up sadly single, having been dumped by her jerk of a man who was supposed to take the trip with her (she consoled herself by going anyway and cashing in his ticket — the upside — stupid wound up paying the whole freight). Before Maya knows it, she’s got a lot more on her hands than nursing a broken heart.
It isn’t bad enough she’s blindsided, unwittingly walking into a murder scene — guess who winds up being the prime suspect? So, in short order — practically the blink of an eye, she goes from looking forward to hanging out in the high life on exotic grounds to being the subject of a publicized manhunt (okay, womanhunt) and it’s time, ladies and gentlemen, to fasten your seat belts and hold on, because it’s going to be one bumpy ride. All while Maya manages to fit in libidinous designs on a suave fellow, Simon, who’s got his own heartfelt interest in clearing her name.
Angela Henry’s hand at credible character construction, sharp dialogue and intriguing plots is stronger than ever. If you’re familiar with her work, this is a delightful addition to your collection. If you’re not, The Paris Secret is a perfect introduction to this singular talent who admirably excels in a field full of half-baked fodder barely suited to whiling away one’s time under the hair dryer, waiting for the fingernails to dry or enduring a boring bus or train ride. In short, she writes great stuff.
A bit of background: Angela Henry, born and raised in Springfield, Ohio, has a B.A. in English Literature from Ohio University. Along with the trials and travails of Kendra Clayton and Maya Sinclair’s misadventures (a sequel to The Paris Secret is underway), she saw her short story “Trick Dice” published in Proverbs For The People: An Anthology Of Contemporary African-American Fiction and was awarded honorable mention in Ebony’s 10th annual Gertrude Johnson Williams Writing Contest for her short fiction story, “Peaches for Mercy”. In 2000, she founded the award-winning website, MystNoir to promote African American mystery authors. USAToday.com selected it as a “Hot Site”, A&E’s Mysteries.com chose it as a site of the week and it’s been featured in Black Issues Book Review.
So, now, you know.
Dwight Hobbes welcomes reader responses at P.O. Box 50357, Mpls., 55403.