Tuesday, November 6, 2012

REVIEW: Murder in the Marais, by Cara Black

Murder in the Marais, by Cara Black. Published 1999 by Soho Crime. Crime Fiction.

Murder in the Marais is the first of an eleven-book series starring Detective Aimée Leduc, a French-American private detective whose beat is the streets of Paris. A Jewish woman, Lili Stein, has been found murdered with a swastika carved into her forehead; Leduc is called in to investigate by a local synagogue based on her late father's reputation and his relationship with the man who approaches Aimée. Aimée for her part is up to her neck in debt and can't say no to a lucrative job.

Since this is the first book in the series, Black spends a certain amount of time establishing Leduc's character and background. The daughter of an American mother who abandoned her and a French father, she's a chameleon. She can blend in with skinheads one minute and dress up in designer duds and fit in to high society the next. She can totter on Paris rooftops in high heels or she can sit quietly by the bedside of a dying man, pulling the wool over the eyes of hospital staff. But she can't seem to untangle the identity of the killer.

Of course she does, eventually, but not before we're treated to a kind of snapshot history of French anti-Semitism and how it lingers into the present day. Lili, the dead woman, managed to stay hidden during the war along with her friend Sarah, who was the lover of a Nazi soldier turned present-day diplomat. But Sarah's relationship with Helmut was far from simple and when he returns to Paris to take part in sensitive treaty negotiations on the status of immigrants, they find they have some unfinished business after all.

I had fun reading this first entry into the Leduc series. It's gripping and suspenseful and gritty. I enjoyed watching the conspiracy at the heart of the story unfold and I think it's a great choice for crime readers. A customer of mine at the bookstore liked this book so much she called me the next day to say she stayed up all night reading it. If you like crime and mysteries, you should definitely add Aimée Leduc to your list of detectives worth investigating.

Rating: BEACH

FTC Disclosure: I did not receive this book for review.