Friday, April 26, 2013

Review of "Murder Below Montparnasse" [32]

Murder Below Montparnasse by Cara Black 
Soho Crime, ISBN 978-1616952150
March 5, 2013, 319 pages

"A long-lost Modigliani portrait, a grieving brother’s blood vendetta, a Soviet secret that’s been buried for 80 years—Parisian private investigator Aimée Leduc’s current case is her most exciting one yet.

When Aimée’s long-term partner and best friend Rene leaves their detective agency for a new job in Silicon Valley, Aimée knows she can handle the extra workload. At least, that what she tells herself. Repeatedly.

But all bets are off when Yuri Volodya, a mysterious old Russian man, hires Aimée to protect a painting. By the time she gets to his Montparnasse atelier, the precious painting has already been stolen, leaving Aimée smelling a rat. The next day, Yuri is found tortured to death in his kitchen. To top it all off, it looks like Aimée isn’t the only one looking for the painting. Some very dangerous people are threatening her and her coworkers, and witnesses are dropping like flies. Now Aimée has to find the painting, stop her attackers, and figure out what her long-missing mother, who is on Interpol’s most wanted list, has to do with all this—fingers crossed she wasn’t Yuri’s murderer, despite clues pointing in that direction.

Obviously, Rene doesn’t need to worry. Aimee has things under control."

But, of course, she doesn't, which if you are familiar with the series is part of the appeal.
And one of the things I find annoying.

On the good side, Aimée and Rene are good characters. Sadly Rene, who usually keeps his friend under control, is off on his own little adventure that goes bad in the US, so Aimée is even a little more flighty than usual. Yes, that is her, but is gets a bit tiring. Am I wrong to want a detective who actually detects, not just falling into event after event? It is all react, little thoughtful action.

Then there is the setting. Awww...Paris, City of Lights, Aimée zipping around on her little Vespa, changing outfits out of her bag to create disguise after cute. And the so common French phases add a lot of atmosphere. And become more than a little annoying.
See, I don't speak French. And I would bet most of the readers don't speak French.
I read one of these phases and the story comes to a halt for a moment as I try to figure it out. Is there some explanation in the following dialogue? Can I figure it out? Does it say something important, something that would add to the story? I have no idea, and worse of all, I have stepped out of reality of the story because of it.

This is, I believe the 13th book in this series, not something to be sneezed at. Obviously it has a lot of fans.
But while there are some appealing aspects to the book...the characters, the is not enough for me to save it from a confusing, meandering plot and those annoying, mysterious French bits most of the readers are, no doubt, missing out on.
Although that little surprise at the end of the book...and no, I will not tell you what it is even if careful readers will figure it out themselves before  Aimée...does make me slightly curious about that the future will hold for Aimée. I seriously doubt I will find out though.

My thanks to the publisher and Amazon Vine for providing a review copy.


  1. I do love the descriptions of Paris and the enigmatic characters. I just found out what a croque monsieur is, from reading another book - looked it up. It's a French ham and cheese sandwich! Thank heavens for google! By the way, the first book in the Aimee series blew me away - Murder in the Marais. I recommend it.

  2. I have one of these but I have been reluctant to dive in - now I feel better about it! :--)

  3. Yeah, foreign phrases in the middle of a story can be jarring. I do love the Paris setting, though.

    1. true...but not knowing Paris, I could have used a map too!

  4. The mystery world has Stephanie Plum as its token blunderer, and anything else kinda feels like a wannabe. I prefer my crimes to be solved with cleverness! Not sure how I would do with those phrases either...I only took one year of French in HS and even then only learned the bad words...

    1. a bit of blundering is ok, but I do like some thinkin'.

  5. The French would be fine with me (I took five years of it in high school with a double credit in my last year) but I know what you mean. I find the same thing happens to me when I run across Spanish phrases - very common in American books, but not taught in Canadian schools. And I just finished Elizabeth von Arnim's Elizabeth and her German Garden and had to keep stopping to translate the German. :-(

    1. Really, why would an author want to limit their audience?

  6. I need description of this book. because I don't know any thing about it.

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