Second book featuring a strong and unconventional woman during our celebration of Women’s History Month.
Place: Montparnasse , Paris
Book: Murder Below Montparnasse by Cara Black (NEW THIS MONTH: March 2013)
Cara Black juggles. And she does it extremely well.
If you have not yet met Black, she writes a mystery series with each book focused on a different arrondissement of Paris. I talked about Murder in the Latin Quarter here in 2011. That book was the 9th in the series, written in 2009, and Black is still going strong.
Murder Below Montparnasse is lucky 13 in the series featuring the intelligent and unpredictable detective Aimèe Leduc. All the things I said about Aimèe Leduc in that prior review still hold. I said then that I’d like to have her as a guide to Paris, and lo and behold, some lucky person is going to go to Paris next October not with the fictional character, but the real author– Cara Black– as a Paris guide. Although Cara Black lives in San Francisco, you’ll believe she MUST be a Paris resident when you read her books. She is such an expert on Paris, that Lonely Planet featured her in their City Guide to Paris.
Before you start packing your bag for your trip to Paris with Cara Black, let me explain what I meant in the opening by saying that she juggles. The complexity of her plots can be almost overwhelming, combining as they do a search for a MacGuffin (see former review for explanation of that)– in this case a lost painting by Modigliani; lesser-known sub-communities of Paris– here it’s Russian emigres; history–this time Lenin and the Trotskyites; geography–following Aimèe as she zips around Paris on her motor scooter or by Metro or foot; Aimèe’s personal life; a sub-plot or two (her trusted assistant and computer whiz is hired to go to Zeelakon Vallaaay where he discovers a plot which makes him flee through Mexico back to Paris) and more involving her detective business office and co-workers. In fact, at one point in Murder Below Montparnasse, Aimèe takes stock of the problems she is juggling and you can almost hear the author thinking, “What have I gotten myself into?”
A woman she meets asks,
“Been under more stress lately?”
Apart from her best friend’s defection to America, Saj’s injury, the murder of an old man who’d known her long-gone mother, a stolen Modigliani, death threats from Serbs, being attacked in her office and almost drowned in a bucket….
“A little more than usual,” Aimèe admitted.
Black keeps the reader in the loop with tried and true mystery writer tricks, but she uses them so skillfully that they don’t look like tricks. As with any mystery, there is enough information for the reader to solve the mystery (I did), and enough false clues to thoroughly muddy the water. You stick with the book, not just because of the puzzles you are helping the detective unravel, but because Aimèe Leduc is such good company. And she has an apartment on Ile St. Louis, which I deeply covet, but that’s MY problem.
Finally Black ends each book with a cliffhanger to make sure you’ll come back for the next installment. And without giving anything away, I have to say that I was totally stunned when I saw the cliffhanger in this book. There is no way that I will miss the next volume of Aimèe’s adventures in Paris.
The Aimèe Leduc mystery series certainly belongs on the travel shelf of anyone who ever has been to or hopes to go to Paris. But even if you have no interest in Paris (is there such a person in the world?) you’ll enjoy reading it for the unraveling of the mystery.
The two wonderful photos used here are credited. They came from Flickr and are used with a Creative Commons license. Please click on each photo to learn more.