Friday, April 9, 2010

a review of "Murder in the Marais" [23]

Murder in the Marais (Aimee Leduc Investigations, No. 1)Murder in the Marais by Cara Black
(Soho Press, ISBN 1-56947-159-2)

Aimee Leduc, a not terribly successful detective who specializes in computer matters, takes the job when she is approached by a rabbi and asked to decipher a more than 50 year old photograph. Quiet honestly, she needs the work. But when she goes, as instructed, to deliver the results to an elderly woman living in the old Jewish quarter of Paris, the Marais, things take a horrible turn.

She finds the woman dead in her apartment, a swastika carved into her forehead. Suddenly Aimee finds herself in the middle of a nest of Nazis. There is a neo-Nazi group, an elderly German at the center of a extremely important European trade decision but who has a hidden past from WWII that he is desperate to keep secret. Finally there is a cabal of very powerful people whose ties go back to the Third Reich, and who have very real, and very nasty, ambitions for the future of Europe. As the danger escalates, Aimee finds herself in the very center of a very treacherous present day situation but also a crime that goes back over a half century and has now reached into the present day.

This is another book about which I have some mixed feelings.
Aimee is an interesting character, even if her many extraordinary abilities make her seem at time more like a minor superhero than a lowly detective. The Paris setting is very interesting, although the many untranslated French phrases left me feeling I might be missing something. Then, there is the matter of her business partner Rene, a computer whiz extraordinaire. Now, I am all for a great sidekick for a detective. But the fact that the author made him a dwarf and then made his dwarfism at times almost a humorous when a villain leaves him dangling by his suspenders...seems a bit distasteful. And have I mentioned in the past how I hate it when the hero is being held at gun point by an evil doer, who rather than just pull the trigger, takes the time to explain exactly how and why he did what he did? How nice of him!

The book, to me, seemed at it's strongest and most interesting when it was telling the part of the story set in Paris during the war, the story of how people survived, how they dealt with the Nazis and how, after the liberation of Paris, the collaborators were dealt with. Much of the plot was pretty interesting and there is certainly a great deal of action, but at times some extraneous storylines, storylines that go nowhere, seem to be just thrown in for no reason and makes following matters a little confusing. Once again, a little more editing might have gone a long way.

Bottom line, this book is an interesting, if flawed, introduction to the series, which now has reached 10 books, including the most recently published Murder in the Palais Royal . Certainly, if you have a particular interest in books set in Paris and want to start a well established mystery series, this is one you may want to check out.


  1. Yeah, what is up with the dwarf sidekick? Maybe the author was just trying to be quirky, but I can't imagine it adds anything. You have also brought up a huge irritation for me in crime mysteries, and that is the "spill your guts" reveal over gunpoint. Way too Scooby Doo for me! Sorry this one didn't completely deliver!

  2. Well, I do have this one sitting on my shelf because #1 I enjoy mysteries and #2 I LOVE Paris. However, I appreciate your review as I will now be more aware of the various flaws before I start reading.

  3. Keep these reviews coming!

    Can you shed some light on my question?


  4. I have the latest one and was looking forward to reading it although I think I too will be turned off by the dwarf as sidekick thing. Nicely reviewed!

  5. I know what you mean. I've never gotten that whole thing in books and movies when the bad guy fills in all the blanks for the guy he's about to kill. The Paris setting does intrigue me.

  6. that actually sounds like it would be an awesome beach-read series for me. mysteries are like candy for me sometimes and i like that bits of it are in french! :-)

  7. Well, I must admit that it sounds good, as I love Paris and I love mystery books. Thanks for the lovely review!


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