This is a superb novel, enchanting and brutal in equal measure. This is historical fiction at its finest, vivid and beautifully rendered; and yet in their longing for a lost world, Schaffert's characters feel entirely contemporary to our present moment.--Emily St. John Mandel, author of The Glass Hotel A Gentleman in Moscow meets Moulin Rouge in this stylish, sexy page-turner about Clementine, a queer American ex-pat and notorious thief who is drawn out of retirement and into one last scam when the Nazis invade Paris on the eve of World War II.
Clementine is a seventy-two year-old reformed con artist with a penchant for impeccably tailored suits. Her life of crime has led her from the uber-wealthy perfume junkies of belle epoque Manhattan, to the scented butterflies of Costa Rica, to the spice markets of Marrakech, and finally the bordellos of Paris, where she settles down in 1930 and opens a shop bottling her favorite extracts for the ladies of the cabarets.
Now it's 1941 and Clem's favorite haunt, Madame Boulette's, is crawling with Nazis, while Clem's people--the outsiders, the artists, and the hustlers who used to call it home--are disappearing. Clem's first instinct is to go to ground--it's a frigid Paris winter and she's too old to put up a fight. But when the cabaret's prize songbird, Zoe St. Angel, recruits Clem to steal the recipe book of a now-missing famous Parisian perfumer, she can't say no. Her mark is Oskar Voss, a Francophile Nazi bureaucrat, who wants the book and Clem's expertise to himself. Hoping to buy the time and trust she needs to pull off her scheme, Clem settles on a novel strategy: Telling Voss the truth about the life and loves she came to Paris to escape.
Complete with romance, espionage, champagne towers, and haute couture, this full-tilt sensory experience is a dazzling portrait of the underground resistance of twentieth-century Paris and a passionate love letter to the power of beauty and community in the face of insidious hate.