This story is so much more than a taut thriller set in Nazi-occupied Paris – though it certainly is that as well. Lucien Bernard is a talented architect who loves his work. He has a wife and a mistress and is trying to make a living under the current regime. He is intelligent but not particularly introspective. Then a wealthy businessman contacts him with a proposition: create the perfect hiding place for a Jewish friend of the businessman.
Lucien is not anti-Semitic, he doesn’t like the Nazis, but he’s not a fanatic. Money is tight and the commission would be a financial Godsend, but if he were caught or exposed, it would mean torture and death. This is too dangerous to consider. However, the creative side of his brain is truly challenged and temptation builds – especially as funds diminish – and he finally agrees to this onetime only commission.
Of course, it does not remain a onetime only and he continues to make brilliant, unique hiding places based on the architecture of each building. Until one fails fatally and he realizes he has become far more emotionally invested in the people and his work than just clever gamesmanship against the Gestapo. These are all high profile Jews the Gestapo has been seeking relentlessly. They know somehow, someone has been aiding them and the pressure to both capture the Jews and break up the conspiracy that’s protecting them is getting unbearable.
As danger is mounting and the stakes are getting higher Lucien is faced with making the ultimate choice: is he committed to this path he’s been traveling or will he, can he turn his back on it and disappear?
The setting of 1942 Paris makes the creation of Lucien’s crisis easily comprehensible, but The Paris Architect is also the perfect vehicle for examining one of life’s ultimate questions: when the essence of who I am is called out, how will I respond?