Murder in the Marais

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by Cara Black

If you can’t jet away to Paris, reading Cara Black’s long-running Aimée Leduc mystery series is not a bad alternative. Each mystery takes place in a different part of Paris with its own issues and characters.
At the heart of this series is Aimée Leduc, a spike-haired, tattooed Parisian detective specializing in cyber fraud and computer security. Her father, Jean-Claude Leduc, was a French police detective killed in the line of duty and her mother was an American, Sydney Leduc, who abandoned her child and husband when Aimée was eight.

Aimee speeds around Paris on her moped with a fistful of disguises in her large black handbag.  Her partner is a dwarf, René Friant. Her roommate is a fluffy, white dog. Her home is a drafty, deteriorating apartment on the fashionable Ile St. Louis that she inherited from her grandfather.
Professionally, she swears she will stick to technology crimes and computer and internet security because of what happened to her father. In fact, none of her cases in this series relate to computer fraud. They do, however, often evoke the poignant longing of a child abandoned by her mother.
In this book, Aimée is asked by a mysterious, old Jewish man to extract the secrets of an encrypted photograph. He says he is doing this on behalf of a woman in his synagogue. When she tries to deliver her results to her client in the Marais, Paris’ historic Jewish quarter, she discovers the old woman strangled, a swastika carved on her forehead. Aimée finds herself tracking a mystery rooted in Vichy France and the Holocaust.
Each book in the series focuses on a different neighborhood and culture. In Murder in BellevilleAimée is helping an old friend, now married to a minister in the French government, track down his mistress. She soon finds herself tangled in politics and terrorism involving Algerian nationalists and Islamic fundamentalists. 

In Murder in the Bastille, Aimée goes to meet a client dressed in a reputedly exclusive Chinese silk jacket only to discover that the woman at the next table is wearing the same jacket. When the woman leaves her cell phone on the table, Aimée follows her to return it. She is attacked. When she returns to consciousness she is temporarily blind; the woman she was following is dead in a nearby passageway.

The books that follow this one, in order, are:

  • Murder in Belleville (2000).
  • Murder in the Sentier (2003), Aimée meets a woman recently released from prison who tells her that she knew Aimée’s mother. The woman tells Aimée that Sydney Luduc was a member of the notorious 1970s Red Terrorist gang. But before she can learn more, her informant is murdered.
  • Murder in the Bastille (2004).
  • Murder in Clichy (2005), involves a Buddhist temple and leftover hostilities from the French involvement in Indochina.
  • Murder in Montmartre (2006). Aimée’s childhood friend, Laure, is a policewoman. Her partner Jacques asks Laure to be backup when he meets with an informer. Then, Jacques is shot. Laure is charged with his murder because her gun had been discharged and she had gunpowder residue on her hands. Aimée sets out to clear her and finds herself in a case involving separatist terrorists, Montmartre prostitutes, a surrealist painter’s stepdaughter and the French Security Services’ “Big Ears” in the sky monitoring telephonic and electronic communications.
  • Murder on the Ile Saint-Louis (2007). An anonymous, distraught, late-night phone call sends Aimée into the courtyard of her apartment building where she finds an infant girl. When no one claims the baby, Aimée wonders if the woman has become an “Yvette,” a Jane Doe dragged from the Seine.
  • Murder in the Rue de Paradis (2008). Aimée’s one-time lover, Yves, an investigative journalist, returns to Paris and proposes marriage. But after one night of bliss, he is found dead in a Paris doorway. The police call it a robbery gone wrong. Aimée believes it’s a political hit.
  • Murder in the Latin Quarter (2009). A Haitian woman shows up at the offices of Leduc Detective claiming to be Aimee’s half-sister. Delighted at first, Aimée soon finds herself tangled up in Haitian politics and murder. She then becomes a suspect. This takes place in the Latin Quarter on Paris’ Left Bank. 
  • Murder in the Palais Royale (2010). As Aimée is getting ready to leave for New York City to check out information about a possible younger brother, her partner is nearly killed. Eyewitnesses identify Aimée as the culprit.
  • Murder in Passy (2011). Aimée’s godfather Police Commissaire Morbier asks her to go check on his girlfriend at her home in Passy. She finds Xavierre strangled in her garden. Circumstantial evidence points to Morbier and Aimée must clear him.
  • Murder at the Lanterne Rouge (2012). Aimée wants to be pleased when her long-time partner René finds girlfriend, but she can’t bring herself to trust the woman, Meizi. When Meizi disappears at dinner to take a phone call and doesn’t return  — and minutes later a young science prodigy is found dead in an alleyway with Meizi’s photo in his wallet, things get complicated fast.
  • Murder Below Montparnasse (2013). René leaves their detective agency for a job in Silicon Valley. A new client, Yuri Volodya, hires Aimée to protect a painting.  By the time she gets to his Montparnasse atelier, the painting ahas been stolen. The next day, Yuri is found tortured to death in his kitchen. Aimée comes under attack. Clues lead her to wonder whether her long-lost mother is involved.
  • Murder In Pigalle (2014). A serial rapist has been terrorizing Paris’s Pigalle neighborhood. when Zazie, the 14-year-old daughter of the owner of Aimée’s favorite cafe, disappears, her parents turn to Aimée for help. She discovers a terrifying secret in neighborhood history that turns the whole quartier on end. This is inspired by a true crime story of a serial killer acting in 1998 and is follow up to Murder Below Montparnasse.
  • Murder on the Champ de Mars (2015). A young Gypsy boy pleads for Aimée’s help, insisting that his dying mother has information about an unsolved murder her late father investigated a decade earlier.  But when Aimée arrives at the hospital, the woman has vanished.
  • Murder on the Quai (2016). This mystery takes us back to 1989 when Aimée is studying medicine. But the week the Berlin Wall falls, so does Aimée’s life: someone sabotaged her lab work, which may cost her place in the program. Her boyfriend gets engaged to another woman and her father disappears to Berlin asking her to help at the family detective agency while he’s gone. Aimée finds herself investigating a murder linked to a transport of Nazi gold that disappeared in World War II — and questioning her commitment to medicine.
  • Murder in Saint-Germain (2017). Aimée is walking through Saint-Germain when she is accosted by Suzanne Lesage, a member of the French elite counterterrorism squad. Suzanne believes she is being stalked by a Serbian warlord she thought she’d killed. She’s suffering from PTSD and her boss believes she’s imagining things. Aimée at first agrees, until members of Suzanne’s team begin to turn up dead in strange, tragic accidents.
  • Murder on the Left Bank (2018). A dying man brings an attorney a notebook of meticulous investment records. He’s waited 50 years to confess to helping a cadre of dirty cops launder stolen money. He insists the attorney take the notebook to Paris’s chief prosecuting attorney. But on the way, the notebook disappears. The attorney asks Aimée to find it it. But will she find her father’s name when the notebook is found?

Black’s website has a wonderful map showing where the books take place in Paris.

On the 20th anniversary of the series, did an interesting interview with Cara Black.

The Author: Cara Black (1951 – )

Cara Black is a San Francisco-based author who first visited Paris in 1971 while hitchhiking around Europe. In 1984, she returned to Paris and stayed with a friend whose mother had some of the experiences Black writes about in Murder in the Marais.
That planted as seed in Black’s head about writing a book set in Paris, although she didn’t start writing the story for another 10 years. Since then she’s made many trips to Paris. On each visit she focuses on a different part of the city, delving into it’s history. Her knowledge of Paris allows her to richly evoke the sights, sounds and scenery of Paris with a focus on the city’s working class neighborhoods.


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