Like most mystery writers, Cara Black is a sort of recidivist who continually relapses into describing criminal behavior. Her latest book, Murder in the Rue de Paradis, is another detective story set in Paris and starring Aimée Leduc, a sexy young private investigator with big eyes and short, spiky hair.
Each of Black’s books is set in a different neighborhood; this one centers on a street with a romantic name, Rue de Paradis, in the rather seedy area around the Gare du Nord, although the action takes us on a few excursions to the now-trendy Canal Saint Martin area. Since the book takes place in 1995, however, the canal is still lined with factories and its banks frequented at night by men cruising for sex, both of which play a role in the plot.
It seems that Aimée’s sometime boyfriend, Yves, has been brutally murdered in the Rue de Paradis just after proposing to her. According to the police, he was killed by a male prostitute whose services he had solicited after spending the night with her, but Aimée doesn’t believe it for a minute. The symbol carved into his neck with the knife that killed him leads her off on a number of wild goose chases and eventually into the complex thicket of Middle Eastern politics and terrorism. As Aimée tries to unravel the strands and find Yves’ killer, she intrepidly puts her life in danger more than once.
Like Black’s last book, Murder in Montmartre, this new addition to the series is a fun, fast-paced read with a sometimes too-complex plot that is occasionally disrupted by travelogue-like historical information about Paris. It’s hard to believe that while Aimée is being stalked by an armed killer, for example, she would remember that the wall of the café she is hiding in “was part of the infamous Saint Lazare prison, torn down in 1940.”
It is thoughtful of Black to want to educate her readers and give them a little Paris color, but these bits of information slow the action and should be more convincingly integrated into the story or left out altogether. And while she’s done her research very well, there are a few annoying slipups in the French phases used: “Attends, s’il vous plait,” for example, or a waiter asking a customer “Voulez-vous désirez?” rather than “Vous désirez?”
Quibbles apart, Black has once again produced a book that will please both mystery fans and lovers of Paris.