May 10, 2014
Murder in Pigalle
By Cara Black
If you have not read any of Cara Black's previous thirteen Aimee Leduc mysteries, shame on you. There still is time, start with Murder in the Marais and have a Leduc binge. There is no one in the genre or even in the travel writing business that captures the Paris of 1990s better than Ms. Black.
With Murder in Pigalle Aimee now shoulders two burdens, the search for a friend's child that may have been abducted by a pedophile and the child in her own belly. And to complicate the search she has to deal with the World Cup (world soccer championship for you Americans), the hottest June in decades, the Parisian police bureaucracy, and a criminal trying desperately to go straight and save his own missing daughter. As with many of Ms. Black books nothing is as it seems. And to add just one more level of annoyance – it's tax season and Aimee owes the taxman big time. Success has its problems.
The characters fairly breathe under Black's pen; they are as rich and real as the prostitutes and hustlers that populate the seamier parts of the City of Light. Black describes the Paris the tourists miss or try hard to avoid. It is the Paris of Parisians and immigrants that go about their day and their lives untouched by cloying tourists and European day-trippers. It is the shopkeepers, the art dealers, and the theater employees living over their shops; and its also about the grafters, thieves, and pimps of the Pigalle. Aimee knows them all and using her detective skills follows lead after lead trying to find the child who has disappeared from the eyes of Paris.
Everything happens in four days and the pace is driving. The writing is classic Black, edgy, fashion conscious, knowledgeable, and above all crisp and economical. There is enough description of Paris to be satisfying without going over the top or touristy. Even Ms. Black's use of a French word to highlight a phrase or scene (that some find annoying), I found endearing. Much better than long sentences in French even though, in reality, everyone is speaking French. And remember, if you hear someone clapping below the window after you finish a piano piece by Paganini, be afraid, very afraid.