Mad, Bad & Dangerous to Know by Samira Ahmed (336 pages)
In Mad, Bad & Dangerous to Know, A Modern Day Teen Tracks Down A Woman Missing From History
A month in Paris should be a dream for Khayyam Maquet, but she just wants to be back in Chicago, sorting out the mess she left behind. In an attempt to impress the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Khayyam submitted an essay claiming to have solved a centuries-old art mystery. But the head judge called her research ill-conceived, and now Khayyam fears her dream college is off the table. Also, her maybe-ex-boyfriend is ghosting her. While brooding in Paris, Khayyam has a fluke run-in with Alexandre Dumas, a dashing ancestor of the great French novelist. Her essay centered on Dumas, Eugene Delacroix, and a secret, gifted painting, so it feels like kismet when Alexandre wants to dive into this mystery of history with her. Of course, they each have their own motivations…
A Delicate And Intriguing Mix Of History And Romance
The first chapter of Mad, Bad & Dangerous to Know doesn’t jump right into the story. Instead, it gives an inside look at the main character, Khayyam, from her perspective. It provides a powerful head start, and easily pulled me into her mind. Khayyam’s voice is clear yet introspective, and her dynamic with Alexandre, the dashing Parisian who agrees to be her partner-in-crime, immediately hit the right tone, sinking me further into this tale. Khayyam and Alexandre’s romance is angsty, but it’s not the center of the story, nor does it outshine the historical mystery that is.
As Khayyam and Alexandre hunt through history, hoping to find clues that will lead them to the secret painting given to his ancestor, Ahmed strikes a delicate balance with how she presents history. She treats it with reverence, but shows the holes in the story. As they say, history is written by the victors, which are usually powerful men. So when the detective duo discovers Leila, a Muslim woman who’s tied to Dumas, Delacroix, and Lord Byron, Khayyam grows protective of her story, and rightfully so. As I flew through this novel, I was entranced by the intriguing plot, the will-they-won’t-they romance, and the humid yet endearing Paris.
The Bottom Line: 4.5/5 Brookie Stars
Mad, Bad & Dangerous to Know by Samira Ahmed is a careful probe into the past and a look at how history treats women—particularly marginalized women. It’s a story of strength and intrigue, and how one modern-day girl’s uncovering of the truth affects her life, love, and future. Read this one if you adore mysteries of history and romance in the City of Light.
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Jamie Mitchell is a writer, library assistant, former bookseller, and all-around lover of the written word. She’s currently working on her fifth novel, and if you’re wondering where the other four are, they’re safe on her laptop and in need of rewriting. She lives in Indianapolis with her husband, and enjoys traveling, bookstagramming and experimenting with gluten-free flours.
Favourite book: Graceling by Kristin Cashore
Favourite brunch spot: 1823 Bakehouse