cover image The Queen of Paris

The Queen of Paris

Pamela Binnings Ewen. Blackstone, $27.99 (416p) ISBN 978-1-9825-4684-7

Ewen (The Moon in the Mango Tree) dazzles in this outstanding historical thriller that chronicles the life of Coco Chanel in occupied France. While staying at Paris’s Hotel Ritz in the spring of 1940, Chanel is approached by the Reich’s High Command to become a spy and sees an opportunity to take control of the company she’s built with her business partner, Pierre Wertheimer. As the war escalates, Pierre takes the secret formula of Chanel No. 5 to New York City, threatening Chanel’s control of her iconic fragrance. After becoming a German asset, Chanel attempts to use growing anti-Semitism and new Jewish laws under the Vichy government to her advantage to reclaim full control of her company. Her efforts bring her to the attention of powerful members of the German military, who push the limits of her national and personal loyalties as she goes undercover for the Nazis. Ewen’s Chanel is arrogant and fragile in equal measure, and the author does a marvelous job of digging into the motivations of a woman born into poverty as she defends the fortune she built for herself, making this a refreshingly nuanced character portrait and also a real page-turner. This is top-notch historical fiction. Agent: Julie Gwinn, The Seymour Agency. (Apr.)