Cara Black is an incorrigible recidivist, coming out with a new crime novel set in Paris every year. Now she is back again with the ninth in the series, “Murder in the Latin Quarter.”
The latest “Aimée Leduc Investigation” involves not one mystery but two: who killed a Haitian scientist specializing in research on pigs, and who is the mysterious woman who shows up in Aimée’s office one day claiming to be her half-sister and then vanishes? Because the action takes place just after the death of Princess Diana in 1997, the police and press are far more interested in finding the owner of a white Fiat spotted at the scene of the princess’s accident than in solving the professor’s murder.
Aimée’s hunt for her “sister” and the truth about their relationship causes her to stumble upon the murder victim and attract the attention of both the police, who suspect her sister of the murder, and some unknown thugs.
As usual, the pace is hectic as the chic, sexy and fearless Aimée, always inappropriately dressed in flea-market designer outfits (“She wished she’d worn jeans instead of the Dior pencil skirt”), rushes about town trying to evade the police, the goons and her partner in the detective business, René, who is secretly in love with her and wishes she would settle down and stick to their real business – the much less exciting world of corporate computer security – instead of always trying to solve crimes without pay and often getting herself beat up in the process.
Woven into the story is a subplot about corruption in Haiti (and a little voodoo). Another, ongoing subplot concerns the mystery of the whereabouts of Aimée’s mother, a 1960s radical who abandoned her husband and daughter when Aimée was a child.
Black, who lives in San Francisco, spends long periods of time in Paris researching the settings for her books, each of which takes place in a different neighborhood. This adventure takes Aimée into a variety of authentic and accurately described settings in the Latin Quarter: a student bar, a Roman arena, a former Irish seminary, a hammam (steam bath) in a mosque, the catacombs and so on.
Black incorporates historical details into the texture of the story much more smoothly in this volume than she has in past books, in which tourist-guide information sometimes annoyingly interrupted the story at crucial moments, slowing down the action.
Murder in the Latin Quarter ends with a cliffhanger that will lead Black right into the plot of her next book, Murder in …, but her fans will have to wait another year for her to commit another crime novel.