The Glass Tree is a well-paced thriller in which the main character Eli is recovering from the unexpected death of his wife, Liana. Set in Paris in the fifties, the book has an atmosphere reminiscent of the stylish spy thriller films of the sixties and seventies with the former occupation of the Nazis still leaving a stain on the city and its citizens, and Communism ever present as a perceived threat. It is a world of suspicion and subversion.
The book starts as it means to go on when Eli has a new revelation delivered to him by his father-in-law (of all people) about Liana and this completely alters his view of her and their marriage. This, as expected, also acts as a catalyst which propels the action of the book into new and exciting territory as more and more is revealed about the woman that Eli thought he knew.
As the reader, we follow Eli and his train of thought while he wrestles with what to do – should he avenge his wife’s death or leave it and move on? As an American in Paris, he has the option to leave and start afresh in his homeland and so, while events around him develop, we see how Eli tries to work his way out of his grief, his anger into a better place.
There is much to recommend in this book. It is well-written and has an array of characters. The threat and the mystery around Liana are well thought out and the narrative flows throughout. Eli is portrayed as a man rocked by what has happened to him but having the strength of character to try and move on; similarly, Paris is shown as a city still reeling from being conquered and bearing the scars of survival, especially relayed by Michael Manz in the guilt of the Parisians, the things people have to do to get by in difficult times and the rise of Communism and gangsters, but trying, despite these difficulties, to regenerate.
I particularly liked the glass tree itself and the way that it was returned to in the story, a metaphor in some ways for Eli’s relationship with Liana: fragile but with roots.
An easy read with excitement and tension, it never lulled and I was always keen to find out where it was going.