|Murder in the Marais (Aimee Leduc Investigation)
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Aime Leduc, the intrepid young French-American detective, is hired to investigate the grisly murder of an old Jewish woman in the Marais district of Paris. Her undercover search leads to a neo-Nazi group and requires that she play a dangerous game involving current politics and old war crimes.
- Bad Guy Tells His Life Story
Do we need still another novel where the bad guy holds a gun on the good guy (in this case a gal) and is conned into telling his unabridged autobiography? Yes, mystery fans, here it is again, the oldest clich¨¦ there is. You and I both know that when this stalling technique is applied the bad guy is doomed. Sure the scene is supposedly used to create suspense and provide expositiory material, but gosh I just sit there and fight hard not to throw the book against the wall. It is also sad that the era of detective footwork seems to be over. CSI has ruined that for us on TV, and Ms Black contributes to this technique of overcoming detection difficulties by using technology to fill the gaps. Her heroine gets information by instantly, yes instantly, hacking into any secure computer system she wants to. Yup, she just sits down, boots the computer, and while we are still trying to download our email she has entered the government's top secret computer files.
Might I also ask the question of why are PI story writers so enamored of detectives with physical or mental quirks? We now have private eyes who are encumbered with various stages of bodily paralysis, drinking problems, and to top them all, author Jeff Lindsay has come up with a crime solver who is a psychopathic serial killer (his novels are actually quite entertaining). All Ms Black can muster here is a dwarf sidekick whom bad guys hang up on a coat hook to get him out of the way. His character is left almost totally unexplored.
The novel concerns Nazis (original, huh?) who, not to the jaded reader's surprise, are still milling about in present day Paris. These consist of the modern day "neos", and some who are still left over from WWII, despite the fact that age must be an encroaching problem for most of them. Ms Black has a limited number of characters in the novel, and, surprise!, they all are intertwined somehow. If there are only ten characters in a book, and you know that nine of them didn't murder anybody, well...hmmm. You got it! Character number ten is the very bad person.
Parts of this tale are somewhat exciting, but the writing overall is quite pedestrian. I was going to give this book a 3 star rating, but have deducted one star for the author's cop out fantasy in using unbelievable hacking skills to provide information to help solve the crime.
- Fascinating novel, but weak ending
I fell in love with this novel primarily because while reading it I felt that I really was in my beloved Paris. Been to the Marais, L'Ilse de Louis, and even the Chateau de Blois! I also got caught up in the complex, historical and fast-moving plot. While admiring Aimee Leduc, however, I sometimes wondered if any sleuth had her gumption -- leaving me to feel that some of her actions (ie getting primary antagonists, to show up on command) were unrealistic, even in fiction. Nonetheless, I had only one real disappointment: after detailed exposition of the plot and characters, the book ends so suddenly as to make one wonder, "What really happened to all these people?" Was it just time to end the story...or is there a second Aimee Leduc Investigation on the way?...more info
- Just plain bad...
I had every intention of liking this book. I liked the premise (a woman gumshoe in Paris), the setting (Paris - who can screw that up?) even the book cover. But alas, no amount of good marketing can save poor writing. The first two sentences should be a clue to just how bad it will get later on: "Aimee Leduc felt his presence before she saw him. As if ghosts floated in his wake in the once elegant hall." The "once elegant hall" is never explained or even aluded to as we discover that Aimee is in fact in her office. Half a page down the chocolate croissant makes its first appearance, only to reappear several pages later "... she dunked a buttery croissant in a steamy bowl of cafe au lait." Fodor's does the "French atmosphere" much better - but then Fodor's hires professional writers who do not employ cliches.
Sentences are clipped and often make no sense within the context of a paragraph. (These are English 1A level mistakes). Characters (including Aimee herself) are poorly developed and cartoon-like, Paris is a city straight out of a poorly written tourist throwaway brochure, the plot meanders and in the end does not make sense.
Stay away from this or other Cara Black books!...more info
- Like Paris itself--exciting and complex
I just read Murder in the Marais. What a wonderful book! I started reading it on the train during my daily commute, then finished it on the weekend. What an intriguing, well told story. Several times during the rest of the weekend, I thought of continuing reading it and realized sadly that I had finished it.
Everything worked. A complex, interesting detective. A compelling plot. A great ensemble of characters. And a fascinating setting extremely well described--I haven't been to Paris since 1977, but I felt I was right there. I look forward to Aimee's next case!...more info
- Good atmosphere, characters, needs work on the plot
Black's story of murder in the Parisian Jewish quarter has some very good points. The French atmosphere is sufficiently well drawn to draw me in. (Other reviewers have commented on various errors, only one was so strong as to violate suspension of disbelief for me.) Many of the characters were well-drawn, especially the lives of the secondary protagonist and his war-time lover. Aimee herself does not quite work for me, but that seems as much a problem of plot as of character.
The plot itself, there's the problem. Where the story focuses on the intimate atmosphere of the Marias, it shines. Where it tries to link itself to French national politics and the machinations of an important French politician, it falls flat. Moreover, one should not create a character who is an expert in a field (in this case computer forensics) without enough reseach to make the details plausible. What details are given make Aimee's computer work about as plausible as Sandra B's efforts in _The Net_. (Others have noted the technical errors with firearms.)
An enjoyable read, but needs some serious editing by someone familiar with French language and slang, computer forensics, and firearms. Maintaining a consistent scale might help. (If the adventure is set in a neighborhood, let it stay there -- the story would have been as good without dragging in international political intrigue.) Perhaps another perusal of Raymond Chandler's essay on mystery writing would be of use to the author....more info
- Great first attempt
I found this author named on Rick Steve's travel website, what to read when traveling.. this a return trip to Paris for me. Very enjoyable book, Aimee is a bit too super-human to be believable, as is her dwarf side-kick... I kept thinking he, because of his abnormal size, would draw attention / be too memorable to a passerby or one with criminal intent, for surveillance work. Still, a noble first effort, and I'll definatley read more by this author. As a side note, I very much enjoyed the map, and following Aimee around this district as she investigated....more info
- Good Read
The setting is contemporary Paris and the story line is intriguing and focuses on current themes. A good summer read....more info
- Too full of mistakes to be believable
If I were to set out to write a book set in France, in which French phrases were to be used on virtually every page, I would take the time to check that the words and grammar were more or less correct. This author didn't bother. But even if she didn't, the editor certainly should have. A $6.95 paperback French-English dictionary would have made a huge difference. When I read about a supposedly French character talking about "le morte," and when the word for police changes genders in the same paragraph, I get too annoyed to take the book seriously. What happened? Is the publisher under the inpression that no one in America has taken French I?
Even beyond that obvious problem, there are too many instances of just plain old poor writing to make the book worth reading. For example, when Aimee discovers the murdered woman, the author describes the body so confusingly that I had to reread the paragraph several times and still couldn't figure out what was going on with the splinters and scratches.
Perhaps if the editor had done a better job this book might have been salvaged but we'll never know now....more info
- A great story without leaving your favorite chair
We all love a great mystery, and Murder in the Marais has all the elements. However, this book has the addition of the atmosphere of Paris; the sights, the sounds and the intrigue. Move over Kinsey Milhouse, I can hardly wait for Cara Black's next book!...more info
- Worst mystery ever written
What an awful book! If this is not the worst mystery novel ever written, then it's certainly the worst one that I've ever attempted to read. The plot is ridiculous. Nazis! I mean really, how impoverished must your imagination be if that's the best you can come with for a subject.
Aimee is a cartoon character and what do I need to say about her assistant, who is, believe it or not, an actual dwarf. Paris is presented as one massive cliche. I find it hard to believe that the author has ever actually been there, although she is reputed to have lived there.
I will tell you that I had to abandon the book about 3/4 way through. I could no longer stomach the bad writing and had no interest in finding out how the story would resolve itself. I also couldn't stand the thought of reading about Aimee eating another croissant or whatever. Seems that Black's major success is that she invented a new genre: Paris-exploitation novels.
I assumed that anybody who had that many novels in my public library must have some skill as a writer. That was a very wrong assumption. Perhaps one day I'll try one of her subsequent novels to see if her writing improved. I'm not hopeful, because the degree of improvement required would be a massive leap....more info
- Improbable but entertaining hijinks in the Marais...
This is Cara Black's first novel and it comes recommended by Laurie King and Sarah Smith, so I gave it a try. A real cliffhanger, in every sense of the word, complete with happy ending!
The major strength of this book is its historical background - occupation of Paris in the 40s, starving people, black markets in food and other goods, and later brutal revenge on "collabos" even by those not part of the resistance themselves. There are vivid descriptions of photographs and archival records of the Jewish community in Paris. Characters Lili Stein and Sarah Strauss were memorable, as was Helmut (even though the descriptions of Helmut's involvement in a European trade agreement are often confusing, his emotional life is moving). The neo-Nazis all speak in the language of Mein Kampf, ad nauseam, sometimes to the point of Victorian melodrama.
Paris setting - extremely detailed - often tiresomely so - do we really need to know that a character stops at a caf¨¦ on Blvd. Voltaire "across from Tati, the cut-rate store?" Especially since the conversation then concerns sales at Monoprix...
Plot - Technicolor Wonder Woman scenes, crawling over tiled roofs, popping her own dislocated shoulder back into place, hanging from gutters, splashing through sewers. Also many amazing feats of computer hacking.
Character delineation improves toward the end; in the beginning a score-card would be helpful. Dialogue is strong but sometimes Black could use some plain old narrative to set the scene with a bit more clarity.
Costumes - range from a leather skinhead outfit complete with swastika tattoos to a black Issey Miyake suit with stiletto heels. Heroine Aim¨¦e is a master of improvised disguise and can don and arrange a hairpiece in a few moments while ascending a few floors in a lift without a mirror. Disguises are never penetrated...
Inherent improbability of many details - i.e. is there really wi-fi available in the marble-ceilinged restroom of the Mus¨¦e Carnavalet?
Not that I didn't enjoy this book, once the plot began to jell about a third of the way through! It's kind of like chick lit historical fiction, and you do root for Aim¨¦e and her ability to survive almost anything, including a stone-cold Ile Saint-Louis flat which amazingly enough has heated towel bars even though the radiators don't work...
I will probably read more of these - they beat TV by a mile and the improbabilities are more entertaining than irritating. Besides, I am a sucker for anything set in France. Will Yves turn up in the next book? Stay tuned......more info
- Hang on tight
"Aimee Leduc felt his presence before she saw him. As if ghosts floated in his wake in the once elegant hall. She paused, pulling her black leather jacket closer against the Parisian winter morning slicing through her building, and reached for her keys." After the first three lines of Murder in the Marais, we know we are in the hands of a gifted story teller, someone we can trust to take us on a roller coaster ride above and below the streets of Paris. Along the way we meet a fascinating cast of characters: Aimee's partner Rene, a computer hacking dwarf, Leah, the button expert, several handsome neo-Nazis, and a wide assortment of men and women who are not what they seem. Aimee is a well-drawn protagonist, bright and tenacious, who will stop at nothing to exorcize the ghosts of a dark Parisian past. Hired to solve a simple encryption problem, Aimee is pulled into a maelstrom of deceit, ambition, and retribution, beginning with the mutilated body of an elderly Jewish woman, her forehead engraved with a swastika. To find the killer, Aimee must search the shadow side of the City of Light, both past and present, acquiring powerful enemies wherever she goes. Themes of love, loss and identity are skillfully woven through the breakneck action of this sensational mystery as Aimee is forced to confront her own ghosts, as well as those of Vichy France. The twists can be dizzying at times, but we are confident that the author will pull all the threads together by the end of the ride. Ms. Black has created a vivid setting, physically and emotionally, with enough sights, sounds and smells to bring the Marais alive. I can't wait to go back...more info
- Enjoyed -- with some reservations
Aimee is an interesting character and I look forward to seeing more of her. In later books, though, I hope Aimee will come to realize that her Glock 9mm does not have a safety -- and that her 1990s adversaries will think twice before arming themselves with either antique Lugers or (!) Nazi daggers. Still, worth the read!...more info
- A Good First Novel
I bought the book at a university bookstore because I wanted something to read while waiting for my husband to complete a meeting with an architect and I'd already finished reading the book I had with me. Partly I bought it because of the beautiful buildings in the cover photograph (arcitecture on the brain, I guess), partly because I like mysteries, and partly because, like other readers, the premise intrigued me. Overall, while I didn't love it, I enjoyed it a lot. To say the least, I wasn't as disappointed as some were. While I agree with the reviewer that Aimee Leduc is a bit reminiscent of Stephanie Plum (without the bike shorts, Morelli, and Ranger to save her from herself), I disagree that reading the book was a waste: it wasn't.
It begins strongly with a very interesting question - how much exactly does our past influence our present and, more importantly, the present of those too young to know the past? Specifically, Black asks what happened to all of the Nazis who escaped, who blended into the Allied woodwork. Could they be around still? Could our lives' paths cross? What would happen if they did?
Soli Hecht, a Nazi hunter and old friend of investigator Aimee Leduc's father, hires her to decipher the meaning behind an encrypted Israeli military file containing half of a photo of a cafe in occupied Paris. Aimee takes the case reluctantly, not enjoying personal contact work, as her field is more computer related security; however, she is sucked in by a combination of financial necessity, curiousity, conflicted feelings about her late father, and the corpse she finds while attempting to deliver the results of her initial investigation. From then, the plot grows complicated, even a bit convoluted, with neo-Nazis and shadowy figures attempting to silence Aimee and her partner, Rene.
The best parts of the novel are those involving Paris, its history, its mores, and its inhabitants, especially the WW II bits. Black is at her best when explaining the complex channels through which Aimee crawls (sometimes literally) to complete her assignment. In these sections, atmosphere and setting are crucial, and Black melds them seemlessly into the contemporary crime narrative. I don't care whether her explanations of French political processes are valid - that's why they call it fiction - and criticism of her on this point is petty. After all, if I wanted to study the truth of the assassination of JFK, I wouldn't ask Oliver Stone.
Her weaknesses, although few, are significant. The first is the affectation of the partner. Partners are fine and they certainly enhance a plot. After all, what would have happened to Spade if Archer hadn't tailed Thursby that night? The problem is the partner-as-dwarf. I find it false, far-fetched, and, honestly, a little irritating, smacking of comic relief where none is needed. Specifically, I mean the scene in the morgue in which Rene is out of commission because he's been hung by his suspenders from a door jamb by a bad guy. Couldn't another, more realistic plot device have been found? Also, the dwarf conceit requires Aimee to carry Rene. Literally.
The sceond weakness enters due to the first. Because Rene is a dwarf, Aimee has to be larger than life. She fights like a Kung Fu master, kicking, climbing, and stopping short only of leaping tall buildings in a single bound. While she may be a black belt in some martial art, I find it another affectation. If an author asks her readers to suspend disbelief and live in her relatively realistic world, then her world needs to be. . . well, relatively realistic. The computer genius can be smart, funny, promiscuous, and carry a lot of emotional baggage, but let's not make her a perfect size 6, and able to scale old French buildings in stolen 5 inch heeled designer shoes.
In general, the book was a good read, a quick moving plot (just over a week, according to the title pages), with a clever and resourceful heroine, a lightly humorous tone, and a lot of intersting history. Since this whole reading-for-entertainment thing is self-explanatory, I don't expect much more from a novel. If I wanted to intellectually sweat my way through life, I'd finish my PhD in literature quicker. Instead, I think I'll sit on the beach and read Black's other novels....more info
- I loved Murder in the Marais
I was very impressed by Carra Black's first book. I was completely consumed by the tale, and it was hard to believe I hadn't actually been in Paris myself while reading Murder in the Marais. The characterizations were very lucid to me, made more so by some nice quirky observations that made the story come alive in a refreshing way. I especially liked the heroine, Aimee Leduc, and felt myself to be along side her, rooting for her, throughout the hectic three day roller coaster ride. I am not usually a mystery reader, but this got me hooked, and I am itching to see what Aimee is up to in the next book. Take me back to Paris!...more info
- Unfulfilled Potential in This Debut
First thing on a Wednesday morning, Aimee Leduc finds a man waiting for her outside her office. The man insists that she decipher an encrypted photo and deliver it only to a woman in the Jewish quarter of Paris. Aimee mainly does corporate security work these days, but the man insists and pays well, so she agrees to take the case.
After a hard day of work, Aimee decodes the photo and goes to deliver it only to find the woman dead in her apartment with a swastika carved in her forehead. When Aimee is hired to find the killer, she reluctantly agrees. Was this the hate crime it appears to be or is something much bigger at work?
The book started out well and I was quickly drawn into the story. But about half way through, the book lost its way. There were too many sub-plots and story threads. This was highlighted by the climax which worked, but was rushed enough that it became almost laughable at one point. Still, the crime was satisfactorily solved.
I also had a problem with the characters. There were many fully developed characters wandering around. But Aimee and her business partner Rene weren't among them. They were more the super human variety of hero. They held my interest, but the more flawed other characters were more interesting.
There were parts of the book I certainly enjoyed, but it didn't come together to form a cohesive whole. Considering the praise the author gets, I have a feeling she got better with more experience. I guess I'll have to read on to see for myself....more info
- The feeling of Paris
I've visited Paris and the Marais many times and while reading Ms. Black's book I could see steam rising off the sidewalks, hear the sound of the chase echoing off walls, and clearly envision the office upstairs. First effort, indeed, but a fleshed-out one with a seeming guarantee for not just more but better....more info
- Murder in the Marais - My favorite read of 1999
My favorite read of 1999! Murder in the Marais took me to Paris: the smells, the sounds and the food evoked a wonderful atmosphere -- cheaper than a plane ticket and no lines at Charles de Gaulle airport. Aim¨¦e Leduc, the thoroughly modern Parisienne gets pulled into criminal investigation by an old Nazi hunter and finds intrigue in the Marais, the old Jewish section. The parallel story of a old German veteran drew me in, along with the authentic political depiction of immigrant tensions in Paris. The skillfull weaving of several story lines and points of view worked for me. Very well, in fact. And at the end I shook my head and said why didn't I figure that out. Fast paced and with intriguing characters especially Aim¨¦e, her partner, Ren¨¦ and crusty Police commisaire Morbier. When is the next in the Aim¨¦e Leduc investigation? I can't wait to read more...more info
- Sorry, but...
Sorry, I hate to pan anyone's first effort, but I couldn't get beyond the first couple of chapters of this book because of what I felt was poor writing. The premise was certainly interesting, but I found the author's choice of words sloppy and the characterizations wooden. (Now, I can practically hear my dad saying, "If you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all.") I think the author shows talent, but she could have benefitted from a more discriminating editor....more info
- This warrants a gallic shrug--comme ci, comme ca
I love Paris. I particularly love the Marais district. And I love a good mystery. Sadly, this one didn't quite stitch all those loves together. It was a bit choppy and unrealistic at points but it had merit.
I like the plucky Franco-American heroine with a weakness for bad boys, couture and Gaulois, in particular. And, in a series, it's an affinity for the main character that is first on my list of criteria.
I also appreciated the author's insight into this fascinating neighborhood and its sad history. For francophiles looking for a virtual trip to Paris, this isn't a bad option.
A flawed but still auspicious start. If the author has a little more of an assured voice (she overexplained a lot I believe but then glossed over other key clues/facts) in future books, this will be a series to savor....more info