Duck Duck Book

21 – murder in the marais
07.7.2005, 12:04 am
Filed under: fiction

Murder in the Marais / Cara Black.
New York, N.Y. : Soho Press, 1999.
[MCL call number: MYSTERY BLACK; six copies, no holds]

Murder in the Marais is the first in a series of novels. In this debut we meet Aimée Leduc and her partner, René Friant, private detectives who specialize in computer forensics and security. Despite this more or less unglamorous specialty, Aimée’s tendency to run into mysteries bigger and more dangerous than “how can we keep this data safe?” provides the storyline for this and later Leduc mysteries.

In the first pages of Murder in the Marais, Aimée is asked to break the code on a computer file, and deliver the results to an associate. Her prospective client, Soli Hecht, is old and weathered, and as it turns out he is a fighter from way back, having been a major player in the resistance to the Nazi occupation during the war, and a hunter of Nazi war criminals ever since. Aimée takes the job, and is drawn into a mystery of larger proportions than she anticipated, involving international trade agreements, old Nazis, life in Paris during the occupation, the ultimate fate of collaborators, and modern-day racist activism.

This is a complex story ranging through fifty years, with attention to the relationships within and between many different families and communities, and exposition of a broad slice of French and European political life. The mystery is set against the backdrop of Aimée’s life — her struggle with the death of her detective father in a bombing, her mixed feelings about her American mother (who walked away from the family when Aimée was a child), the anxiety with which she and René run their almost-financially-successful business, and other details bring richness to the novel.

Aimée Leduc solves more mysteries, gets in more fights, and has more adventures in four later novels: Murder in Belleville (New York : Soho Press, 2000), Murder in the Sentier (New York : Soho Press, c2002), Murder in the Bastille (New York : Soho Press, [2003]), and Murder in Clichy (New York : Soho Press, 2005). I was well-satisfied with the first books in this series, as mysteries and also as novels, but Murder in Clichy isn’t as good as the others. It comes too close to the hackneyed, formulaic dullness that the mystery genre has been so often faulted for. It’s still a decent book, but not a really great one.

So, my advice is, if Aimée’s story sounds interesting to you, read Murder in the Marais. If you’re really fascinated with her, continue on to the others in the series. If not, then I guess you can make your own decisions about how many of the series to read.


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