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Three Hours in Paris


Three Hours in Paris

"It was very frustrating to have to observe the course of battle with just a single grenade in one's hand."
     — Lyudmila Pavlichenko, Russian sniper in the Second World War

Cara Black offers a quartet of quotes to open her stand-alone thriller, THREE HOURS IN PARIS. I chose the one above because I felt it most accurately described the plight of the novel’s antagonist, Kate Rees. Kate is a superior markswoman and would have been on the Olympics team had they allowed women at that time. She is an American citizen from rural Oregon who gets in the middle of things due to her wanting revenge against Hitler for the death of her Welsh-born military husband and their infant daughter.

The date in question is Sunday, June 23, 1940, just nine days into the German occupation of Paris. There, Kate will have the opportunity to show off the skill set that got her noticed by top secret British intelligence. Not long before, she and a team of others were dropped by parachute outside of Paris with orders to get set up within the city to complete their mission. The word was that Hitler himself would be there that day, but only for three short hours. It is within this tight timeframe that Kate must accomplish her part of the mission --- find Hitler and take him out with her sniper rifle.

"This book requires you to read with your heart in your mouth the entire time... The switch to historical thriller is a seamless one for [Cara Black], and THREE HOURS IN PARIS will make for one of the more intense reads of 2020."

This is easier said than done, but Kate is an extremely determined young woman. She is set up in a building in Montmartre, directly across from the church where the Führer is attending mass. The scope on her expert sniper rifle is locked onto the front steps of the building in order to take him out as soon as he exits. With payback time finally here, Kate gets her chance. Hitler and his small entourage exit the church, and she fires. Her first shot hits the church pillar and goes unnoticed amidst all the noise. She reloads and lines up again. Her second shot tags one of Hitler's men.

Just as Kate is set to aim at Hitler again, he does something unexpected. He picks up a little girl and holds her in his arms. Kate would now have to fire through the girl in order to get the job done. While killing children is not part of her mission, her desire to rid the world of Hitler is strong. Regrettably, she will not get another opportunity because the Nazi team has seen one of their own go down, and they are now on alert for a nearby sniper. Hitler is rushed into the waiting car outside the church.

Kate will be hurried into the second and perhaps deadlier part of her mission --- getting out of Nazi-occupied Paris alive and returning to the UK. Before readers get to experience that ordeal, they are thrust back to October 1939 at the Royal Naval base in the Orkney Islands, Scotland. It is here where the events that become the impetus for Kate’s revenge take place. The base is bombed by the Germans, and one of the explosives takes the life of her husband and daughter. Even though Kate is a “Yank,” she has the skill set that British intelligence requires for the upcoming assignment in Paris, and they decide to go through the process of training her for it.

Kate’s preparation will not just consist of shooting at targets; she can handle that without issue. She also has to memorize the mission and all its components because being caught with a written copy of plans that include names and locations is a no-no. Thankfully, there is time for her to work on this. What she feels the least comfortable with is having to change her total appearance so as not to be recognized or caught. As an actor, this is my favorite part. She is trained by a British thespian on the art of creating a character and how simply parting the hair a certain way, using a burnt cork to add shade and age to her face, and even sticking a pebble in her shoe to take on a different walk could be enough to fool those who are looking for her.

The rest of the action takes place on that fateful day in Montmartre where Kate must call upon all the resources given to her to get out of Paris and return to the UK in one piece. There are two massive things working against her. The first is that some or all of the names she is given to meet up with in Paris to secure safe passage could be double agents or already turned by the Nazis out of fear for the well-being of themselves and their families. The other factor is Gunter Hoffman, an angry Nazi who has been put in charge of tracking down all involved in the sniper attack on the Führer party. It seems that Kate's worst fears become reality as many of her contacts prove to be untrustworthy, and Gunter seems to get closer and closer to her at each turn --- regardless of how good a job she does at changing her appearance.

It is the inevitable showdown between these two that breathes all the suspense into the story --- and believe me, there is plenty of it. This book requires you to read with your heart in your mouth the entire time as it seems likely that Kate will never see her country home in Portland again, let alone the UK. Cara Black has taken all of her superior knowledge of Paris, which she has used at length in her terrific Aimee Leduc series, and put it to excellent use here. The switch to historical thriller is a seamless one for her, and THREE HOURS IN PARIS will make for one of the more intense reads of 2020.

Reviewed by Ray Palen on May 1, 2020

Three Hours in Paris
by Cara Black