Mane attraction

Fiona Davis’s compelling novels combine great plots with her portrayal of some of Manhattan’s most famous landmarks

Thursday, 21st July — By Jean Gray

Lion sculpture New York Public Library Carol M Highsmith Archive collection at the Library of Congress

Lion sculpture at New York Public Library. Photo: Carol M Highsmith Archive collection at the Library of Congress

FOR those of us who live in one of the world’s great cities it is easy to become blasé about the historic buildings we pass every day.

Not so for New York Times bestselling author Fiona Davis whose page-turner novels combine great characters and plots with her signature portrayal of some of Manhattan’s most famous landmarks.

Since The Dollhouse was published in 2016, Davis has brought to life many famous buildings in a series of novels.

They include the Dakota Building where John Lennon was shot, Grand Central station, The Barbizon Hotel which in the 1950s was home to single women pursuing modelling and secretarial careers, and the iconic Chelsea Hotel.

The formula has worked again in her latest novel, The Lions of Fifth Avenue, which is simultaneously a gripping historical mystery and engaging family saga.

When Davis discovered that an apartment inside the New York Public Library is home to the superintendent and their family, she found inspiration for her latest plot.

Author Fiona Davis. Photo: Deborah Feingold

The story takes place over two time periods. In 1913 we meet the library superintendent’s wife Laura Lyons. A happily married mother of two, Laura wants just a little bit more out of life. She wins a scholarship for a place on the journalism course at Columbia University where she encounters a world of academic discrimination, radical feminism and the Bohemian lifestyle of Greenwich Village and London’s Bloomsbury.

Eighty years on, in 1993, her granddaughter Sadie Donovan is a curator at the same library, struggling with family secrets that span three generations and with the potential to ruin her career. Is history repeating itself when she becomes a suspect in the theft of a valuable exhibit at the library, just as her grandfather had to deal with the theft of a book that had huge consequences for the family just before the First World War?

Sadie joins forces with a private security expert to solve the mysteries.

With its twists and turns up to the last few pages, I literally could not put this down until I had all the answers.

As well as being a celebration of books, writing and women’s place in society, this is a compelling read with characters that will stay with you.

The Lions of Fifth Avenue. By Fiona Davis. Dutton, £10.29

Related Articles