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The Paris Lawyer

The Paris Lawyer

3.0 19
by Sylvie Granotier, Anne Trager (Translator)

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As a child, she was the only witness to a heinous crime. Now, Catherine Monsigny is an ambitious rookie attorney in Paris, working for a well-known firm. On the side, she does pro bono work and hits the jackpot: a major felony case that could boost her career. A black woman is accused of poisoning her rich farmer husband in a peaceful village in central France,


As a child, she was the only witness to a heinous crime. Now, Catherine Monsigny is an ambitious rookie attorney in Paris, working for a well-known firm. On the side, she does pro bono work and hits the jackpot: a major felony case that could boost her career. A black woman is accused of poisoning her rich farmer husband in a peaceful village in central France, where nothing ever happens. While preparing the case, Catherine’s own past comes back with a vengeance. This fast-paced story follows Catherine’s determined search for the truth in both her case and her own life. Who can she believe? And can you ever escape from your past? The story twists and turns, combining subtle psychological insight with detailed descriptions of the region.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"A beautifully written and elegantly structured novel of a woman's attempt to solve the central mystery of her life, and several other mysteries along the way. It captures the reader from the first page, and never lets go." - Edgar Award-winning author Thomas H. Cook
"Full of surprises and twists that will keep you reading late into the night." -Cosmopolitan
"This is a suspense novel with an absolutely perfect atmosphere. The writing is subtle, racy, controlled. It is written with great art!" -RTL.be
"Everything in this book--the plot, the atmosphere, the characters, and the style--is perfectly mastered from beginning to end." -Echo
"The author has a distinctive style and an unsurpassed talent for delving deep into her characters' minds. It is a disturbing read." -Madame Figaro
"Reading this is like having a fever. The author takes the reader from dark humor to cold anxiety at a diabolic pace."-Notre temps
"The Paris Lawyer has a compelling heroine. She is a young attorney, working on a fascinating, mysterious case, but she is also a woman haunted by a tragic event in her own past, the murder of her mother. Sylvie Granotier interweaves the past and present with a sure hand, and her characters have a psychological depth which is rare in crime fiction today. This is a complex tale, skillfully told, that will keep you in suspense to the very end." -Patricia MacDonald
"A powerful, well-written thriller, but also a meditation on the nature of love and marriage, and whether we can ever escape the past and reinvent ourselves." -Crime Fiction Lover

Product Details

Le French Book
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5.40(w) x 8.40(h) x 0.90(d)

Read an Excerpt

The Paris Lawyer

By Sylvie Granotier, Anne Trager

Le French Book

Copyright © 2011 Albin Michel
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-939474-68-1


One early afternoon, in all other ways like any other afternoon, her mother takes her out in her stroller, soothing her with a lilting mother's voice. She tells her about the wind that sings and then softens in the branches and the swallows that skillfully skim the pond for a few refreshing drops of water before flying into the clouds in perfect circles.

The little girl does not understand every word, but she follows her mother's fingers as they imitate playful birds gliding down to her face.

Then her mother and she will go home for snack followed by a nap.

It is a reassuring life, where nothing unexpected happens.

They stop at the edge of the woods, in the shade of the trees. The little girl toys with the light, squinting to change the intensity of the rays.

Before the screaming starts, before her mother's distant terror horrifies her in turn, before the panicked shrill pierces her ears, and the little girl takes refuge in sleep to bury an anxiety far too great for her to bear, her mother gives her a generous and warm hug, leaving her with the sight of the entire sky, and says, "I'll be right back." A final broken promise. Sitting as she is, the child cannot see the body, or what is left of it, sprawled on the ground, beaten to a pulp. Yet that moment of abandonment remains forever engraved in her adult memory.

The sky is calm and clear above the Seine River in Paris, where traffic is nervous and gray along the banks. Catherine Monsigny cannot figure out what links this fleeting moment with that fixed point in her past, that fuzzy, probably reconstructed memory that usually is tactful enough to leave her alone.

She has even tried to convince herself that it has stopped broadcasting from that faraway land of her childhood.

She crosses the Pont Neuf, parking her scooter at the Place Dauphine. She mindlessly yanks off her helmet, banging her ears in the process, then stows it in her top box. Catherine shakes her head to free her hair, and grabs her briefcase and large bag.

She walks quickly toward the courthouse, cursing her short legs. She slips into her court robe as she climbs the steps, and by habit she automatically replaces those old uninvited images with a quick summary of the case she is about to defend.

Her client—what's his name again? Ah yes, Cedric Devers—is accused of assault and battery. He admits using force and justifies it by pointing out the harassment that preceded it. According to him, he met a woman—Monique Lemaire, fifty-six years old—in a bar, took her back to his place for a short session between consenting adults. Ciao, no see you next time, because there won't be one.

Monique did not see things the same way, harassed him by phone, and one night too many, she took to ringing her seducer's doorbell until he reacted. He opened the door. That was a fatal error. Stubborn with drink, she wouldn't take no for an answer and tried to force her way in. He had to stop the noise and ended up pushing her. She fell, which resulted in a few bruises and three days' disability leave.

Catherine has not yet met her client. They have spoken on the phone. She glances around to find him. He's not anywhere in sight. She pokes her head into the courtroom to check the proceedings.

The pending case is not yet over.

Just as well. Her client will have the time he needs to arrive.

Too bad for him. She does not like waiting.

She paces.

"Maître Monsigny?"

She senses fingers lightly brushing her shoulder, spins around, and looks into the deepest gray—or perhaps green—eyes she has ever seen. She feels as though she's falling into them. She grasps for something to catch her balance, and her professional composure kicks in, as it does every time. She throws him a sharp look and spits out, "Cedric Devers? You're late."

The thirtyish teenager, classy despite the jeans and sweatshirt he has tossed on, stares right into her eyes, unbothered, like a child, without blinking.

Would he never stop looking at her?

The lawyer turns away and walks toward the courtroom, because it is high time to do so and because she wants to escape his embarrassing look.

She sharpens the professional tone in her voice now that Cedric Devers has thrown her off. What an uncharacteristic sensation.

"I asked you to wear a suit. You are performing here. The first thing the judge will see is your attitude and your clothing, and the judge's impression counts."

"So you're a woman?" He bites his lip to crush a smug ladies' man smile. Too late. The very tone of his question says he's taking up the challenge. Women are his preferred prey.

Male crudeness can become a woman's weapon. Even as she says to herself that he really does have beautiful eyes, Catherine's reflex is to lash out. "Studs don't turn me on. All I'm interested in is supporting women's causes. Yep, I'm a feminist bitch. Come on."

"We've got a little time, don't we?"

"There's no way to know, and arriving late always plays against a defendant.

That's not so hard to understand."

"There was a huge line to get in."

"You should have read your summons."

"Reassure me. You're my lawyer, right? I mean, you are here to defend me?"

"That's right. And I won't wear kid gloves. Nobody will. You might as well get used to that."

For an instant, a crack appears in Cedric Devers's display of self-assurance. He's just another poser. He opens his arms and in an uncertain voice says, "Should I, uh, explain?"

She taps the case file under her arm, letting him know that it is all in there and that she does not need any additional explanations.

He stops at the door. "Is Monsigny your maiden name?"

"It's my name. Period." She tightens her lips as she hisses her counter-attack. She has no intention of doing him the favor of explaining that she is single and fossilizing. He would take that as an invitation.

He gets the message, aware that he has just skillfully cut off the branch he had yet to sit on: she thinks he's an idiot.

The truth is, Catherine is working. She has gotten a quick portrait of Cedric Devers: forty years old despite looking younger, a graphic artist who manages his own agency, a good income, clean cut. Now she has to discover the other Cedric, the victim, because appearances have a huge impact, despite the professional neutrality members of the legal system display.

"Once we are in the courtroom, point out Mrs. Lemaire."

He nods and says nothing.

She will defend him as best she can. That is her job.

They are still in the entryway when she stops him with her hand and gives him an approving look.

"Stay in this state of mind: a little worried, a little fragile, not so sure of yourself. It will help you more than posing as a small-time ladies' man."

She does not wait for an answer and enters the courtroom.

The ordinary trial clientele—the scared, the disconcerted, the regulars—are on the public benches. On the defense benches, people in black robes, some with ermine trim and some without, are preparing to represent their clients. Some indifferent colleagues have the bored look of professionals who have more important things to do elsewhere. Others are reading the paper or whispering among themselves.

Devers sits down at the end of a row and with his chin points out a stocky woman.

Monique Lemaire works in a bar, a job that doesn't play in her favor, implying that she has certain life experience. She won't be able to act like an innocent maiden. Yet she is smart enough to be careful about her looks. No jewelry, no makeup, dark pants, an impeccable white shirt buttoned up high under a modest jacket. Still, she's built like an old kettle. Catherine can't help wondering what he saw in her.

Lemaire turns to her attorney, and Catherine notices that the shirt, as plain as it is, looks like it is going to burst from the pressure of her heavy, plump breasts.

Okay, the lady exudes sex. Some women are just like that. Their bodies speak for them. In this case, it speaks for the defense.

Catherine greets the colleague she is facing. He's nicknamed Tsetse because he has a genius for annoying never-ending sentences.

He is the good news of the day.

The bad news lies in the prosecutor-judge duo, a twosome fed up with seeing couples who stay together only because they are poor and who hit each other because they don't have enough space. So separate! But where would they go?

This scenario is being played out once again in the case before Catherine's. The couple live together; they are repeat offenders and have three kids and problems with alcohol. The two of them together earn only fifteen hundred euros a month, which is not enough to pay two rents.

For a change, Cedric Devers offers the court someone who is well off, which could lean the balance to the wrong side.

Catherine, forgetting that she herself was late, throws a vengeful look at her client before pushing him to the front of the court. They had been five minutes away from missing the hearing.

As was foreseeable, an attentive court questions the plaintiff and goes easy on her.

Mrs. Lemaire is upset. Her story is reasonably confused. She is determined to accuse her passing fling and vehemently emphasizes that he went to bed with her on the first date, which was also the last, something she neglects to mention. Everything indicates that she was perfectly consenting. She had thought he was nice. He threw her out early in the morning with the excuse that he had to go to work, even though she needed to sleep because she worked at night. He just as well could have called her a thief while he was at it.

Devers proves to be a quick learner. He listens attentively and respectfully and answers questions directly, without any flourishes. Humbly.

The barmaid plays up the emotions, and her act rings more of loneliness and being ready to grab onto the first ship that passes. He states the facts and says with dignity that he too was distraught that night. He is sorry about how this misunderstanding, for which he is most certainly responsible, has turned out. One lonely night he felt for a woman in distress. She hoped for more than he could give. He is annoyed with himself for this mistake, for which he is clearly the only person responsible.

The barmaid's lawyer gesticulates. He gets excited, cannot imagine an excuse for the unjustifiable behavior of a man guilty of taking advantage of the naïve trust of a worthy woman. He embellishes his clichés. His words flow one after the other without any meaningful conclusion.

The prosecutor stares at the woodwork, looking like she's mentally writing down her shopping list. The presiding judge wearily fiddles with the case file.

For Catherine, it is time to wake everyone up.

She stands, and from the top of her five-foot-five and a quarter-inch frame, she raises a soft yet clear voice, using short, sharp sentences to describe a well-established man with no history of violence, as demonstrated by his attempt to reason with an out-of-control woman who was banging on his door in the middle of the night. Out of compassion and fearing a public scandal, he had opened that door. There was no actual act of violence, but rather a clumsy movement resulting from his exasperation with the stubbornness of a woman who was under the influence of alcohol, an idiotic gesture that was understandable and whose consequences he regrets, as he himself had said.

She asks that he be acquitted and sits down, whispering to him that they would have the decision at the end of the session.

When the judge leaves with her mountain of case files under her arm, they also leave, and Catherine abandons her client to call her office.

She goes out to the courtyard for a smoke, where she watches Devers's agitation from the corner of her eye. He isn't acting like a smartass anymore. He even comes and asks her what she thinks, like a worried child whose mischief has proven worse than expected. He has a certain charm when he stops playing the tough guy, and Catherine experiences some pleasure in stripping him of the vestiges of his protective armor.

She doesn't really know. With a court like that anything is possible, and it is impossible to tell what side it will come down on.

He congratulates her on her closing argument. He notes that she was brief, showing regard for the number of cases that followed; that could have appeased the court. No, he's not dumb.

From time to time, the look in his eyes changes. He no longer appears to be grasping the information that the person in front of him is sending him silently, absorbed as he is in a contemplation that glazes over his eyes and makes them bigger.

It is disconcerting.

She says, "It's true that your girlfriend did not start out with a good deal.

Life is unfair."

Cedric Devers closes his eyes. "Can you say that again?" "Life is unfair. It's a platitude."

She frowns slightly. He's strange.

After being so clearly worried, he doesn't pay particular attention to the verdict.

She expected a week of public service. He is acquitted.

She holds out her hand to her client. She is expected elsewhere. She is in a hurry; she lets him know.

He opens his mouth to speak, changes his mind, and closes it again, which is just as well, as she has no intention of raising a glass to their victory with him.

She puts her robe back in her bag, intending to drop it off at the dry cleaner. His eyes take in the thin figure that her tight skirt and fitted jacket highlight. He can't resist devouring her in his mind's eye, where he lifts her blond hair into a chignon, revealing her graceful neck. He exaggerates her thin waist with a red leather belt, imagines a flowered dress swirling around her thighs. When she has disappeared, he still sees her going up a step, her dress opening, showing her frail legs. The summer-colored fabric falls to the floor, and her breasts appear, small and round.

He turns around. He should get to work.

Catherine finds her scooter, checks the time and decides she can make a detour to the Goutte d'Or.


The building is run-down. Poverty and time have left deep scars in its façade. The structure looks like it will collapse at any minute, and like the grassroots association it houses, it remains standing more out of steadfastness than soundness.

Catherine climbs the shaky staircase, trying to ignore the leprous walls, the rancid odors, and the broken glass that mark the way to a door that announces "Rights for All."

She has already tried to get the distressed building's owner to renovate, but he is skilled at making regulations work in his favor. Her efforts have been in vain. The deterioration continues, as unyielding as the despair of the undocumented immigrants the lawyer volunteers her time to defend.

She has not yet said her last word. In either area.

The door to the two-room apartment that serves as an office stays shut only when it is locked, so it is open practically all of the time, a powerful symbol for the association's chairman, Daniel, who persists in seeing half-full glasses, even when they are empty.

Inside, all the furniture has come from the neighborhood streets, where each step made in economic advancement rejects the preceding one. It is the IKEA syndrome: a three-seat sofa comes in, and a two-seater goes out; an ergonomic office chair replaces the basic model. Daniel has had to stop the association's volunteers in their enthusiastic retrieval of treasures brought to the office at all hours.

A toilet flushes.

It has been fixed, Catherine notes with satisfaction.

Daniel exits the bathroom, buttoning up. He's wearing his bad-day look, his eyebrows knotted up, like his hair, and his eyes outlined with dark circles, like his nails.

"If you have bad news, just forget about telling me, please. Souad got pulled in after jumping a subway turnstile at La Chapelle, where it's crawling with ticket inspectors. Mimi is back on the streets, and Ali is in solitary again. He thinks he's clever, but in all likelihood, he'll be deported. For three grams of hash. But how are you?"

"I'll let you know in two hours, after I see my boss."

"And after, I'll invite you to dinner to celebrate."


Excerpted from The Paris Lawyer by Sylvie Granotier, Anne Trager. Copyright © 2011 Albin Michel. Excerpted by permission of Le French Book.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

Considered in France a master of crime fiction, author, screenwriter and actress Sylvie Granotier loves to weave plots that send shivers up your spine. She was born in Algeria and grew up in Paris and Morocco. She studied literature and theater in Paris, then set off traveling across the United States, Brazil, Afghanistan, and elsewhere, ending with a tour of Europe.  She wound up in Paris again, an actress, with a job and some recognition. But she is a writer at heart, and started her publishing career translating Grace Paley's short story collection Enormous Changes at the Last Minute into French. Fourteen novels and many short stories later, Sylvie Granotier is a major French author. She has met with continued success, and is translated into German, Italian, Russian and Greek. The Paris Lawyer is her first novel to be translated into English. Sylvie splits her time between Paris and the Creuse.

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The Paris Lawyer 3.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 19 reviews.
gelle More than 1 year ago
A young Parisian lawyer offers to take a pro Bono murder case involving an African immigrant. To build the case for her client, she had to travel to the locale where the defendant committed the crime. What she unearthed was not the story of her client, but the discovery of herself. Everything she had believed was exhumed and evaluated before the case was completed. The book excels in depicting the subtle details of everyday life that we often ignore. It poignantly depicts the feelings and emotions of the character in such a way that the reader readily identifies with the scene. The translated version conveys the intent of the writer. It is a mirror of an excellent story.
jakejm More than 1 year ago
The main character is torn betwwen two places (Paris and Creuse) and two times (present and past when her mother was killed). It gives a real depth to the story and this complex character. I loved it!
reececo331 More than 1 year ago
A look into the politics of law and lawyers. this is a dark story about the slippery slope of love and law. The book looks into the ups and downs of law in Parisian courts. Catherine Monsigny is a survivor that has learned to out live the most horrific problems of childhood. she uses her knowledge of criminals and victims to help her solve the mysteries of her cases, and how she can piece together the events that have colored her past. 
druidgirl More than 1 year ago
A young attorney from Paris, Cathrine Monsigny is hired by Myriam Villetreix who is accused of killing her elderly white husband and who married her to stop her from being deported. The village this happened in was the same one that that Catherine's mother was murdered in when she was a young child, this has haunted Catherine all her life as she was there when the murder occurred. Catherine soon discovers that she may also be able to solve her mother's murder as well as saving her client. I enjoyed the author immensely and hope there will be more books translated written by her. ***I received this book from the publisher for an honest review****
MonicaFMF More than 1 year ago
Catherine is a young lawyer who has just taken on her first murder case. Unfortunately, I couldn't get far with this one. Perhaps it was due to the translation, but the narrative and characters were not very engaging. Then every other page was blank (possibly as I was reading an Advanced Reader's Copy), so I felt lost. Overall, a disappointing start.
Margitte More than 1 year ago
Not only a murder mystery, it's also elegant magic! Paris( France) Dr. Claude Monsigny regarded himself as the model father for his model little daughter, Catherine Monsigny. Catherine did not know her mother, Violet, who was brutally murdered as a young women. The gruesome event took place when Violet took her little baby daughter, Catherine, in stroller for a walk, never to return. He would combine the roles of both parents in raising her and protecting her against anything sinister that might possibly bring more harm to her. He made sure that a personal holocaust of Violet's memory would be executed in ensuring that his baby girl would never again be reminded of that day. Catherine was not allowed to ever talk about her again. She did not even know where her mother was buried. She did not even know about "Devil’s Wash, the place where Violet loved the rocks, the multiple waterfalls, the dark mystery and the crystalline cheerfulness." As a young adult, twenty-five-year old Catherine Monsigny was on the brink of her first big murder case in the Creuse, France as a lawyer. Gaston Villetreix died and his African wife, Myriam (N’Bissi), was accused of murdering him. The case could mean a first big break for Catharine and she was willing to leave Paris and represent the accused in her home village in The Creuse region of France. However, before leaving Paris, she was defending Cedric Devers in an assault and battery case, in Paris, and she started to get flashbacks about her mother and the day of her murder. It would become more frequent when she arrived in the village, which startled and upset her since her memories were dormant for most of her life.  She was just a baby, way too young, to remember what really happened that day.  Her father never remarried. He never could replace the love he had for his wife. She was the girl he was waiting for his entire life. He instinctively knew that she is the change he has been waiting for, his future raison d’être. He will be the answer to her life’s detour.  The following months would become a trial in more ways than one when she had to deal with two murder cases, her own love interests, as well as address betrayal, deception, secrets, suspicion and strange events. "Catherine remains calm. In any case, she has been reared never to raise her voice. Keep control. Stay calm. Emotional responses should be controlled, lest they overflow, heaving up debris like a tidal wave." But most of all she had to learn the real meaning of love. Was it a hide-all for everything that can go wrong? Or was there really something like unconditional love. She also, for the first time in her life, had to address the suppressed emotions and memories behind her mother's death which kept her jailed behind high emotional walls. "Brutal, unexpected death, when it cuts off one life, interrupts others, which are cleanly amputated, left without any follow-up, no conclusion , eternally connected to nothing." Myriam "suggested that love is a luxury enjoyed by those who do not have survival issues".  But despite everything she had to face "she(Catharine) wanted to believe that love had other faces and that when her turn arrived, she would be loved better." "You build your house brick by brick, and even before putting on the roof, a catastrophe transforms it into a pile of stones, without you ever knowing who destroyed your universe one day or why." While reading this murder mystery, and psychological thriller, par excellence the thought came up that this story was the work of a professional, without knowing anything about the author. All strings were nicely tied and secured. The ending was unique. In fact, it was one of the most refreshing and original I have read in a very long time.  Thriller, suspense, emotional drainer, fast-moving, nail-biting. And finally you will understand what love really means.  Five stars for keeping me glued and awake and beyond thrilled! You will walk away happy, that's guaranteed! Not only because of how the story played out, how the elements were securely blended together, but also because it was so brilliantly written. Any adult, both genders, can read it. I will undoubtedly read this author again.
gaele More than 1 year ago
This was an incredibly compelling story that maintains that peculiar sensibility that is utterly French yet eludes description.  While most of the more procedurally focused stories I have read flow between police and criminal, Granotier mixes it up and gives us young lawyer Catherine Monsigny enmeshed in two different storylines of past and present.    Lush descriptions place readers in the city of Paris or in the small village in the hills of central France. It is easy to relate to the small town feel: curious neighbors, unlocked doors and a bit of suspicion about anyone different, Parisian or immigrant.  Catherine is brought forward to defend Miriam Villetrieux for the poisoning death of her husband Gaston.  As an African immigrant, orphaned at a young age and brought to Paris for a position with rather dubious employers, her life has been a difficult one until she married the well-off and older Gaston.  Where I expected to see far more covert and even overt racism displayed toward Miriam, I was surprised to see evidence of Catherine’s difficulty in overcoming her own racial bias and tendency to jump to conclusions.  Catherine often seemed more immature than her position and education would warrant, her rush to conclusion without fully investigating people or situations was troubling, especially as she seems to lack that essential quality of ‘people sense’, and is a horrible judge of character.   I think there are two huge issues for her: the strained relationship with her father over his refusal to discuss her mother or her mother’s death, and her education and lawyer speaks tend to become her separation and protection from situations that are emotionally difficult. I saw her as lacking in self-confidence which she covers over with a more stilted and often overly complex speech that bleeds into her personal narrative because it is safe and comfortable.  I felt for her, even if I didn’t particularly empathize with her.  Other characters were as well-crafted and complex, with varying degrees of success and import to the plot.  While the book did require very careful reading as the present and past often collide with little notice.  But, as the more menacing undertones start to reveal themselves the pacing changes and the distinction between past and present is more apparent and easier to follow. Bringing all of the threads to one final conclusion, Granotier has pulled layers from the characters to expose their secrets and flaws up to the last pages, and created a story that was well worth the time to read.  I received an eBook copy from the publisher for purpose of honest review for France Book Tours.  I was not compensated for this review: all conclusions are my own responsibility. 
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Difficult to read. Some chapters are good, but some have paragraphs inserted that seem to come from nowhere and don't identify the characters. Must have lost something in the translation.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I did not like reading it in the first person.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Unusual with many twists and turns.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Did not enjoy, didn't finish reading. Would not recommend.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed it, however, I think in its translation it lost some of the story. It was very good, worth reading.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
MexicoDan More than 1 year ago
This is not a terrible book, but there are many, many more interesting "international" mysteries out there for the reading.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Enjoyed it
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Would give 0 rating