Catherine is a newly minted lawyer looking to advance her career, both because she is ambitious and because she wants to catch the eye of her boss (she is attracted to older men … we’ll discuss her Daddy Issues in a bit). She receives the case of an African immigré who came to France to escape a horrific life in Africa (and to land a husband). Catherine is excited. Nervous, but excited.
The case sends her back to her hometown, which she left years earlier after being the sole witness to her mother’s murder. Catherine was a toddler at the time and remembers only flashes and senses, but then again, she was in a stroller with her back to her mother at the time of the murder. Her new case forces her to remember those dark days.
It also spurs her on toward an investigation of sorts into not just her mother’s death, but to her mother’s life. Catherine grew up a fairly happy girl, despite her earlier trauma. Her father is devoted to her, even if he never discusses or refers to her mother.
She also develops a relationship with Cedric, a man she defended in an assault case. They become romantic, although their relationship seems based more in sex than any true exchange of feelings.
It doesn’t take long for Catherine’s legal case, her investigation, and her relationship to converge.
What Sylvie Granotier does exceptionally well with this novel is develop her characters. We know Catherine. We understand her youth, her inexperience, her nervousness, her naïveté, her optimism, and her fears. She is desperate to impress her boss and her client, desperate to prove herself professionally. She is also desperate to understand her mother, a woman around whom her father has created an entire mythology. The question Catherine must confront is whether she needs the truth or the myth. Which one will cause her more pain?
This theme plays out across her life. Does she really want to know whether her client is innocent or not? Does she really want to know and understand Cedric? Does she really want to know and understand her mother? Or are the myths – the one her father created, the ones she creates – warmer comfort?
Some of the twists and turns are obvious and well broadcast. Others may surprise you. But even when you know what’s coming, Granotier keeps you riveted to her story. Catherine is a character who gets under your skin, and you will want to know what happens to her. Can she live with what she discovers?
Read it. You will enjoy The Paris Lawyer quite a bit.