April in Paris, 1921: A spy, Picasso and the search for a mole

April in Paris 1921 book review

What is this about?: Kiki Button is a socialite, journalist and spy. She’s run off to Paris to escape the clutches of her very straitlaced family in Australia, and finds herself a gossip journalist, spy and detective for Pablo Picasso.

What else is this about?: This is about Kiki trying to find her balance after the war, and her spying during it and the consequences of her actions during it.


Meet the glamorous, witty and charming Kiki Button: socialite, private detective and spy. We all have secrets – it’s just that Kiki has more than most … For fans of Phryne Fisher and Julian Fellowes

It’s 1921, and after two years at home in Australia, Katherine King Button has had enough. Her rich parents have ordered her to get married, but after serving as a nurse during the horrors of the Great War, she has vowed never to take orders again. She flees her parents and the prison of their expectations for the place of friendship and freedom: Paris.

Paris in 1921 is the city of freedom, the place where she can remake herself as Kiki Button, gossip columnist extraordinaire, partying with the rich and famous, the bohemian and bold, the suspicious and strange.

But on the modelling dais, Picasso gives her a job: to find his wife’s portrait, which has gone mysteriously missing. That same night, her old spymaster from the war contacts her – she has to find a double agent or face jail. Through parties, whisky and informants, Kiki has to use every ounce of her determination, her wit and her wiles to save herself, the man she adores, and the life she has come to love – in just one week.

Full of witty banter, gorgeous frocks, fast action and skulduggery galore, April in Paris,1921 is playful, charming, witty, sexy, and very, very entertaining – and Kiki Button, the fearless, beautiful and blonde-bobbed Australienne ex-Army nurse, gossip-columnist-turned-detective, and reluctant spy, is a heroine to win hearts.

April in Paris, 1921 takes readers into Paris, following Kiki Button who craves the freedom of the city, away from her family in Sydney. She returned to them after the war, and found them claustrophobic and eager to marry her off the first chance they got — and one thing the book makes clear is that Kiki is fiercely independent, and can and has done everything she could to survive the war, and everything that comes with being a spy.

Paris means freedom; it means a little flat where she bathes with water in a bowl, and is cold and it makes her happy. She takes on the position of gossip columnist, parlaying her family connections to gain fodder for her column from the very expensive parties she’s been invited to. That’s how she meets Pablo Picasso, and inbetween modelling for him she sets about to find the stolen portrait of his wife.

Once a spy always a spy

Through the book there are hints of Kiki’s past, of her time as a spy and eventually, it seems her past — her handler Fox to be more precise — will not let her past stay in the past. He comes to her with a mission to find a mole, and her price is the freedom of someone she loves — Tom — who was framed for desertion.

It almost seems that there’s a story we’ve missed with Tom when he’s first introduced, but Lunney keeps the story moving along this way, weaving a picture of their life before the war and the depth of their relationship so that you forget that feeling of missing out. They are entirely in love with each other, but neither is ready to settle down or to commit to each other.

Kiki’s missions takes readers through Paris in 1921, with lavish parties, and friends from the war, and enemies too.  It’s gloriously fun, and Lunney brings the city to life in 1921, drawing you into the story.

Kiki is  indomitable, she is resourceful and adventurous and she loves entirely — whether it’s Tom or her friends. What I enjoyed most is that she knows who she is, and what she is capable of.


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