cover image The Continental Affair

The Continental Affair

Christine Mangan. Flatiron, $27.99 (320p) ISBN 978-1-250-78846-7

Richly layered characters, opulent settings, and graceful prose elevate this captivating crime caper from Mangan (Palace of the Drowned) above most similar fare. In the 1960s, 40-something Henri, once a gendarme in Algeria, now works for his hoodlum cousins in southern Spain, collecting and delivering illegal payments. A straightforward bag drop at a cemetery goes awry when Louise Barnard, an enigmatic 28-year-old British woman traveling across Europe, stumbles on the bag and makes off with the money. Though keen to recover the cash, Henri refrains from obstructing her getaway, leisurely pursuing her as she makes her way by train from Granada to Paris and Belgrade to Istanbul. Ashamed of his past and feeling displaced, he takes pleasure in leaving Spain, intent on discovering more about the woman. As for Louise, though she knows she’s being pursued, she remains committed to following in the footsteps of her estranged mother across the continent. As Louise and Henri’s journey nears its conclusion, tough choices, personal sacrifice, and high danger await them. Alternating viewpoints and a shifting timeline enliven the yarn, and Mangan’s character exposition and vivid depictions of exotic locales are sublime. This is a treat. Agent: Elisabeth Weed, Book Group. (Aug.)