Three Hours in Paris
In the summer of 1940, Adolph Hitler visited Paris for a total of three hours before leaving abruptly, never to return. No one knows the reason for this visit, and so, author Cara Black reimagines history in Three Hours In Paris, putting forward one possible scenario.
American born Kate Rees never planned on working for the British government, but after her husband and baby daughter were tragically killed during a German raid, she’s desperate to get back at those she blames for her losses. So when she’s approached by a mysterious Englishman claiming to have a job for her, she packs up and follows him to an old manor house in the English countryside. Once there, Kate learns she is to be dropped behind enemy lines into occupied Paris where she is tasked with assassinating Hitler himself.
After six weeks of extremely intense training, Kate embarks on her mission, which of course, she fails to complete. Now alone on the streets of Paris, Kate must use only her wits if she hopes to return to England.
AAR reviewers Shannon and Maggie read Three Hours In Paris, and this is what they have to say:
Shannon: I’ve read quite a bit of historical fiction based around the second world war, but Three Hours In Paris is the first time I’d heard of Hitler’s mysterious trip to Paris. Was this a part of history you were familiar with?
Maggie: Yes. I had heard about it before, although there was no great mystery surrounding it. From the accounts I’ve read, it was a sightseeing tour that gave Hitler the chance to visit favorite places while at the same time serving in lieu of a victory parade.
Shannon: I love the way fiction can make even the most mundane event feel fresh and interesting. I honestly believed there was some huge secret surrounding that trip. Anyway, when I first started reading, I wasn’t sure I would be able to relate to Kate and believe in her ability to pull off such a dangerous mission. I wondered how such an inexperienced young woman would manage on her own, with very little support put in place. Fortunately, I was able to lay my uncertainties to rest pretty quickly. While not the most technically experienced person, there was something about Kate’s innate intelligence that made it possible for me to believe in her. She slipped up a time or two, but her mistakes felt understandable given the immense pressure she was working under. How did you feel about Kate and her ability to function in her assigned role?
Maggie: If you’re going to enjoy an adventure story, I think you have to be willing to suspend your disbelief and just enjoy the exploits of the characters. Kate was very lucky, and I accepted that within the context of this tale.
Shannon: Kate’s point of view isn’t the only one we see here. We also spend time with the British intelligence agent responsible for sending Kate to Paris as well as the German official assigned to track her down. I enjoyed the behind-the-scenes glimpses we were given into the investigation from both the British and the German sides of things. Kate’s chapters were my favorite, but I was intrigued by the other characters as well.
Maggie: I found the chapters which contained the viewpoints of Stepney, the British intelligence officer and Gunter Hoffman, the German RSD police official very helpful. Kate’s chapters were very action oriented, with one adrenaline-fueled incident following another. It was good to see the slightly slower paced behind-the-scenes activity as well.
Shannon: That’s a good point, and leads very nicely into my next comment. I went into this book expecting something pretty action-packed, and that’s exactly what I got. The author manages to imbue her writing with a strong sense of time and place without detracting from the pacing of the overall plot. Her descriptions of Paris are skilfully woven into the story, allowing me to feel as though I’d traveled back in time. The writing isn’t at all flowery, and I felt like every word had a distinct purpose. How did the pacing work for you?
Maggie: I think the pacing worked very well. As you mentioned, what comes across as especially authentic is the author’s use of her setting. She captures not just the beauty of Paris but the minutiae of it and its denizens perfectly.
Shannon: The ending is the only thing about this book that I didn’t absolutely love. Things felt very rushed, kind of like the author knew she was running out of time and needed to wrap things up in a hurry. I’m not taking issue with the way things are resolved as much as I’m criticizing the style of the resolution. The writing takes on a choppy, almost frenetic feel that I found jarring. It pulled me right out of the story and left me just a little dissatisfied when I reached the final page.
Maggie: I agree that it seemed a bit rushed, but I didn’t feel that was the writing style so much as the short chapters, which no longer fully explained every action and thought of each individual. Given the time frame of the novel (Paris, 1940), and what the characters are doing, I thought this was the author’s way of letting us know the adventure isn’t over. Certainly, I felt the last scene in the book left plenty of room for an ongoing series.
Shannon: Because of the above criticism, I’m giving this a B+. I loved the heroine, the plot, and the pacing, but the last several chapters negatively affected my overall enjoyment of the story. Even so, it’s a book I’m happy to recommend to fans of World War II-related historical fiction who are looking for something a little different. What about you?
Maggie: I’m giving it a B. Because I’ve read action thriller novels in the past (Alistair MacLean, James Rollins, Matthew Reilly, Tom Clancy) and watched shows like 24, I was very familiar with the format of the tale. I liked that this was written by a woman with a primary character who was also a woman, which is rare for this type of book, but the story never rose above what I expect of the genre. It’s a good example of what these tales can be, but it wasn’t exceptional to me so I would say it was good but not great.