Murder in the Latin Quarter (Aimee Leduc Investigation)
by Cara Black
Cover Artist: Photo: Kenji Barroux
Review by Bill McCune
Soho Crime Hardcover ISBN/ITEM#: 9781569475416
Date: 01 March 2009 List Price $24.00 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /
It is fortunate for Aimée Leduc that she has a partner to handle the principal business of her cyber security business; she seems to have her hands full dealing with unexpected, dangerous and unremunerative cases that have personal connections. Her latest outing begins with the visit of a young Haitian woman who claims to be Aimée’s half-sister, Mirielle. This young woman pleads for help with an unspecified but urgent problem, and then promptly disappears. Both moved and intrigued, Aimée sets off in search of this mysterious sibling. It turns out that Mirielle is sought by a network of shady characters, and the trail Aimée must follow leads through corporate board-rooms, into the venerable halls of a prestigious university (the ENS), and descends into the ancient catacombs beneath the streets of the Parisian Latin Quarter.
Cara Black shows no sign of running out of ground to cover in the latest installment of her Aimée Leduc mysteries. The author's eye for detail is as sharp as ever, and Aimée remains both chic and sharp as she dodges the flics (police), human traffickers, and corporate evil-doer while seeking to both protect and prove the identity of the woman who claims to be her sister. The Latin Quarter of Paris is home to one of France's best known universities, and was the location of Marie Curie's research. It continues to be a hub of scientific research (a fact that plays a major role in this novel).
Ms. Leduc is an engaging character. She remains chic in spite of violent confrontations with human traffickers and assorted thugs. Black brings her character's gamine-like qualities to the fore by playing on Leduc's yearning for connection with her family. Is Mirielle really her half-sister? The need to know provides impetus for the fast-paced plot, which leads to high-stakes geo-politics, bioethics, and post-colonial concerns.
The setting has the same gritty yet evocative feel that color and bring charm to the works of Donna Leon and Magadaline Nabb, but this book moves at a much faster pace than theirs; in fact much of this book is one long chase, and it is a tribute to Black's growing skills as a writer that the complex plot never becomes confusing. In fact, the story is so absorbing it qualifies as a one-sitting read.
Some writers appear to use setting as character to offset clichéd prose and recycled plots. Black does not do this; instead she presents a political thriller that is true to its location and offers some insight into third world issues. The tragedy of Haiti is made personal and compelling in this story. The Latin Quarter is both a logical and fascinating place in which to set it.