Murder in Pigalle: An Aimée Leduc Investigation Set in Paris
Pigalle is a rough-and-tumble adult entertainment district in Paris that also provides the majority of the scenic backdrop for the appropriately titled MURDER IN PIGALLE, the 14th in Cara Black’s series of quietly exotic Aimée Leduc mysteries. Aimée is a private investigator in Paris who runs her own firm with the assistance of her friend and business partner, René Friant. While the firm specializes in corporate security and computer investigation, its work frequently strays into other areas, as it does in this installment.
MURDER IN PIGALLE includes a very personal look at Aimée, whose life is almost as interesting as her cases. Her mother left the family when she was young, and her father, an investigator himself, was the victim of a murder that remains unsolved. Both events understandably continue to weigh heavily on Aimée, who is in the middle of a pregnancy, carrying the baby of a man who does not know that he is the father. Aimée is hardly in a condition to be chasing down hardened criminals. So when a serial rapist begins following young girls home from school and attacking them in their homes, she does not feel the need to become involved.
"Black takes her intimate knowledge of the nooks and crannies of Paris and flawlessly weaves them into the tapestry of the story while giving the reader history and culture lessons that go down quickly and smoothly as the plot intrigue plays out."
Things take a different turn, though, when the daughter of the proprietor of a local cafe asks for her help. Zazie, on the cusp of adolescence, has had friends who were attacked and seeks to emulate Aimée, a frequent patron of her parents’ establishment, by conducting her own investigation. Aimée’s assistance is limited to advice; when Zazie disappears, however, her frantic parents request Aimée’s assistance. She can do no less than immediately begin her own investigation, especially when the Parisian police treat the matter as if Zazie was a runaway who will more likely than not return home sooner or later. The attacks on Zazie’s friends and her subsequent disappearance are easy enough for Aimée to connect, but as she begins to sift through what scant evidence there is --- including the bits and pieces that Zazie uncovered in her own investigation into the proceedings --- it slowly becomes clear to her that Zazie may have stumbled into something else that has no relation to the fiend who is terrorizing the colorful neighborhood where she lived with her parents.
René, of course, is there to help, loyal to a fault and quietly wishing for more in his relationship with Aimée while doing everything he can to assist her during her pregnancy. Aimée does not let her condition slow her down, balancing her activity for concern for her baby while following a trail of hard-won clues from a number of surprisingly uncooperative and stubborn individuals. It is only when Aimée obtains a lead from an unexpected source that she is ultimately able to discover what happened to Zazie and put an end to the attacks upon the schoolgirls of Paris.
Aimée Leduc is as complex as the city of Paris itself. Her long-vanished mother manifests herself indirectly in MURDER IN PIGALLE, and a small but tantalizing clue regarding the death of her father is revealed as well. The subtle star of the series, however, is its setting. Black takes her intimate knowledge of the nooks and crannies of Paris and flawlessly weaves them into the tapestry of the story while giving the reader history and culture lessons that go down quickly and smoothly as the plot intrigue plays out. The series is addictive, and while it has been a long-running one, each installment stands well on its own, thanks to the author’s canny ability to bring new readers up to date with respect to what has gone before. Chalk up another winner for Cara Black --- and for the complex Aimée Leduc.
Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on March 7, 2014