Book Review for THE PARAGON HOTEL by Lyndsay Faye
THE PARAGON HOTEL by Lyndsay Faye
G.P. Putnam's Sons
☕ ☕ ☕ ☕ ☕
My Highly Caffeinated Thought: A 1920s story filled with mystery, social issues, race relations, and wonderfully unique characters.
THE PARAGON HOTEL marks the latest in a long line of books by Lyndsay Faye for which I have devoured and adored. I love the way the author weaves together the history of the time period she is writing in with the fictional world she creates. Always peppered with a bit of romance and developing friendships, Faye continues to deliver smart, timely, and dynamic mysteries.
What I enjoyed so much about this book is the dimension of the story. It was not only about a woman on the run. It deals with race, gender issues, and in its most basic form, hate. The author developed her story in a way which sheds a light on so much of what went on in the 1920s, but also managed to keep it fresh and relevant to the current day reader. It has always been my belief that by looking at the past, we can sometimes shed a light on the mistakes we are making today. I believe Faye did just that with this novel as I was transported to Portland with “Nobody” Alice James.
No matter how many times I go back to the author’s books, I can honestly say it is time well spent. She gives me the strong female characters I crave along with witty, clever, and multi-layered historical fiction. Not to mention a mystery…or two.
Reviewer Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
The year is 1921, and "Nobody" Alice James is on a cross-country train, carrying a bullet wound and fleeing for her life following an illicit drug and liquor deal gone horribly wrong. Desperate to get as far away as possible from New York City and those who want her dead, she has her sights set on Oregon: a distant frontier that seems the end of the line.
She befriends Max, a black Pullman porter who reminds her achingly of Harlem, who leads Alice to the Paragon Hotel upon arrival in Portland. Her unlikely sanctuary turns out to be the only all-black hotel in the city, and its lodgers seem unduly terrified of a white woman on the premises. But as she meets the churlish Dr. Pendleton, the stately Mavereen, and the unforgettable club chanteuse Blossom Fontaine, she begins to understand the reason for their dread. The Ku Klux Klan has arrived in Portland in fearful numbers--burning crosses, inciting violence, electing officials, and brutalizing blacks. And only Alice, along with her new "family" of Paragon residents, are willing to search for a missing mulatto child who has mysteriously vanished into the Oregon woods.
Why was "Nobody" Alice James forced to escape Harlem? Why do the Paragon's denizens live in fear--and what other sins are they hiding? Where did the orphaned child who went missing from the hotel, Davy Lee, come from in the first place? And, perhaps most important, why does Blossom Fontaine seem to be at the very center of this tangled web?
About the Author: Lyndsay Faye moved to Manhattan in 2005 to audition for theatre work; she found her days more open when the powers that be elected to knock her day-job restaurant down with bulldozers. Her first novel Dust and Shadow: an Account of the Ripper Killings by Dr. John H Watson is a tribute to the aloof genius and his good-hearted friend whose exploits she has loved since childhood. Faye's love of her adopted city led her to research the origins of the New York City Police Department, the inception of which exactly coincided with the start of the Irish Potato Famine. The Gods of Gotham, Seven for a Secret, and The Fatal Flame follow ex-bartender Timothy Wilde as he navigates the rapids of his violently turbulent city, his no less chaotic elder brother Valentine Wilde, and the perils of learning police work in a riotous and racially divided political landscape. The first book of the trilogy was nominated for an Edgar Award for Best Novel and has been published in 14 languages. Her lasting affection for Jane Eyre led her to re-imagine the heroine as a gutsy, heroic serial killer in Jane Steele.
After growing up in the Pacific Northwest, Lyndsay worked as a professional actress throughout the Bay Area for several years, nearly always in a corset, and if not a corset then at the very least heels and lined stockings. As her roles ranged from Scrooge's lost fiancée in A Christmas Carol to Lavinia DuPlessy in Andrew Lippa's world premiere of A Little Princess, whalebone prevented her from drawing a natural breath for a number of years. She is a soprano with a high pop belt, if it interests you. Her performances were generally reviewed well, with adjectives ranging from "soaring" and "delightful" to "sausage-curled."
Lyndsay and her husband, artist Gabriel Lehner, live in Queens with their cats, Grendel and Prufrock. During the few hours a day Lyndsay isn't writing or editing, she is most often cooking, or sampling new kinds of microbrew, or thinking of ways to creatively mismatch her clothing. She is a very proud member of AEA, MWA, ASH, GWN, and BSI (Actor's Equity Association, Mystery Writers of America, the Adventuresses of Sherlock Holmes, Girls Write Now, and the Baker Street Irregulars, respectively).
Hardcover: 432 pages
Publisher: G.P. Putnam's Sons (January 8, 2019)
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