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The Woman in the Fifth [Mass Market Paperback]

Douglas Kennedy
2.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Dec 12 2011
Douglas Kennedy’s new novel demonstrates once again his talent for writing serious popular fiction. The Pursuit of Happiness and A Special Relationship were both Sunday Times bestsellers in paperback.

That was the year my life fell apart, and that was the year I moved to Paris.

When Harry Ricks arrives in Paris on a bleak January morning he is a broken man. He is running away from a failed marriage and a dark scandal that ruined his career as a film lecturer in a small American university. With no money and nowhere to live, Harry swiftly falls in with the city’s underclass, barely scraping a living while trying to finish the book he’d always dreamed of writing.

A chance meeting with a mysterious woman, Margit Kadar, with whom Harry falls in love, is his only hope of a brighter future. However, Margit isn’t all she seems to be and Harry soon has to make a decision that will alter his life forever.

From the Trade Paperback edition.

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“Kennedy is a fantastic, feisty writer.”
–Independent on Sunday

“Kennedy knows how to keep the pages turning.”
The Times

From the Trade Paperback edition.

About the Author

Douglas Kennedy’s novels have all been highly praised bestsellers. His work has been translated into sixteen languages.

From the Trade Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

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1.0 out of 5 stars What a disappointment! April 2 2014
By Nan
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This book started out as I expected a Douglas Kennedy book to start, but when it plunged off into another dimension with the introduction of the surreal and fantasy, it completely lost me. I did not expect this of this writer whom heretofore I considered one of the foremost writers of the day. Very disappointed.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Good reading June 10 2013
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Very interesting. Well written and was capable of keeping my interest. I will recommend it to my friends.
Good introduction to an author that was unknown to me!
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 3.7 out of 5 stars  45 reviews
22 of 28 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Gripping Tale with Unusual Ending. July 21 2007
By C. Middleton - Published on
One of the essential aspects that distinguish a great novel from a mediocre one is the `engine' that drives the reader to continue turning the pages till the last one is turned. The story begins as an interesting scenario, and from there builds momentum to the point that closing the book's covers and putting it aside till the "next time" is all but impossible. This `engine' is not only the content of the story but the author's style, his/her technical expertise to ensure the reader remains with, and is compelled to, read every word. To be certain, most if not all of Douglas Kennedy's novel's have this `engine', driving the reader forward, however, The Woman in the Fifth takes this notion further, the author using all his skill to intrigue us and entertain us but also somehow making the impossible appear absolutely probable.

Harry Ricks has hit rock bottom...or so we're led to believe until he tumbles further into the abyss. The man has fled the U.S. because of a failed marriage and a scandal at the college where he taught film studies. Harry's life is in ruins and now he is down and out living in Paris; little money, has now contracted a serious flu and doesn't know a soul. One event leads to another, and he ends up living in a very low income sector of Paris, a `chambre de bonne', later is offered a "job" as a nightwatchman, where he sits in a little second story office watching a video screen. He is instructed only to let those individuals through the door that offer a particular phrase. It is obvious that illegal activities are going on below on the first floor, but he is purposefully kept in the dark, it is said, for his own protection. Harry is payed 65 euros every morning after his shift and life carries on this way until he meets a beautiful and mysterious woman at one of Paris's famous "salons".

Magit Kadar is a Hungarian émigré, who had fled Hungary with her mother as a small child. At that time after the Second World War, Hungary was under the dictatorship of a ruthless Stalinist, (also named Kadar) where Margit's father had been lynched in front of her eyes by the secret police. Margit is on the better side of fifty, though appears younger - elegant, intelligent, sophisticated and extremely beautiful. She lives in the Fifth Adrossement in Paris - an understated and tasteful apartment, Margit instructs Harry to meet her there twice a week for only three hours as an intense affair begins.

Suddenly Harry Rick's life turns much more complicated and dangerous as his "enemies" begin to end up murdered one by one. Of course Harry is the prime suspect, but there is no substantial proof, however the circumstances of each crime point to him. Who is committing these murders and in such a horrific manner?

This is a wonderful novel because the narrative is in present time, that is, we follow and feel and sense every action, thought and move of the protagonist.

Original, well written and possesses that `engine', ensuring the reader holds fast to the book from start to finish.

15 of 20 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Do the means justify the end? Oct. 16 2007
By Margaret M. Bell - Published on
I am a huge fan of Douglas Kennedy. I have read all his novels, and bought them as gifts or lent them to friends in an effort to spread the word. I actually really enjoyed this book ... until the mystery was revealed. I felt that this ending was a real cop out when usually I can expect to be gobsmacked by the way this writer ties up his stories. I'll keep buying his books, but another denouement like this one would have me seriously rethinking that position.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Ridiculous but parts are fun Dec 4 2011
By ehab_pen_amazon - Published on
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
This book is a real page-turner. At least parts of it are. It's well written. I liked the feel of Paris that Kennedy brings out with his writing. I liked the protagonist and identified with him and his problems. So far, so good.

But... the decisions he makes towards the beginning of the book -- which set the plot in motion -- are all unbelievably stupid. To the Kennedy's credit, he realizes this and tries to build justifications for them (the character has no choice, feels nihilistic, is naive, etc.), but they don't really convince. No real person would do the ridiculous things this guy does.

The revelation about the woman took me by surprise. I really didn't know what type of book this was going to be. That was sort-of fun, but also a let-down, because it meant that anything could now happen, there are no rules.

Finally, the last part of the book is a mess. The woman seems to have a personality change. I won't give anything away, but it basically took a cool, smart, interesting character and turned her into a stereotype, and no reason is given for her to act this way.

But as I said, the writing was good. If his other books are better, I'd be happy to give them a try.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great Read - Until the End! Jan. 1 2013
By Happy Reader - Published on
This book is riveting for most of the narration. Harry Ricks decamps from the U.S. in the wake of a scandal. With not much to his name, he dumps himself into Paris. To Paris, where he hadn't been for 20 years. The scandal is expertly revealed to the reader in bits and pieces. I'm not sure I actually like Harry Ricks, but what happens in Paris, almost all of it bad, does show he has resilience.

And there's good writing, that really takes you on Harry's ride. In a dive he's rented for 3 months, after which he'll be out of money, he disciplines himself to finally write the novel he's always said he would: " 'I'll show the bastards' is a statement uttered by someone who has suffered a setback ... or, more typically, has hit bottom. But as a resident of the latter category, I also knew that, rather than being some EST-style rallying cry, it was a howl from the last-chance saloon."

By happenchance, Harry meets Margit, a woman of beauty, class, and lust. The last buoys Harry immensely. For he's living in the slums, while Margit lives in the Paris Fifth Arrondissement, wealthy middle class, where he used to be. She is the Woman in the Fifth, and there's something really really odd about her. A true mystery woman.

Near the end of the book, we find out what is odd about her and it completely threw me off. I thought this book was a great read until then, and then all I could say was, "Oh for pete's sake." I cannot explain more without giving away too much.

So, in short, the first two-thirds of the book are riveting. The ending was not.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Loved it.....until the introduction of the supernatural.... June 19 2011
By T. Bundrick - Published on
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I have enjoyed several of the author's previous works. In both THE BIG PICTURE and TEMPTATION, the author manages to create page-turners using escapist, middle-aged male fantasy themes: what would it be like to leave the life you know and start all over again or what would it be like to have everything you know taken from you and to enact revenge. Similarly, this novel successfully explores these ideas again only to collapse under the weight of a supernatural element introduced later on in the book. Quite simply it did not work and I felt disappointed by it. But until that point the writing is, as usual, excellent. The author does know how to hook the reader....
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