Saturday, July 09, 2011

Celebrating Mysteries: French Private Eyes

Since July is Tour de France month, I'm celebrating mysteries that are set in the beautiful country of France. This week, I'm going to take a look at three French private detectives. If I miss any of your favorites, don't be shy-- tell me whom I've missed!

Cara Black
Author Cara Black lives in San Francisco with her husband, a bookseller, and their teenage son. She is a San Francisco Library Laureate and a member of the Paris Sociéte Historique in the Marais. She also frequents a Paris little known outside the beaten tourist track. A Paris she discovers on research trips and interviews with French police, private detectives and café owners.

She has written an excellent mystery series featuring Aimée Leduc, the owner of a detective agency specializing in corporate security in Paris... but that doesn't mean that all of her cases involve big business!

The series currently has eleven books, the first three of which are: Murder in the Marais (1999), Murder in Belleville (2000), and Murder in the Sentier (2002).

It looks as though the folks at Library Journal and I agree on the first book in the series, Murder in the Marais. It's a keeper, and a fine start to the series:

"Although set in Paris in the early 1990s, Black's new series start harks back to World War II crimes. Private investigator Aimée Leduc becomes involved when she discovers the body of an elderly Jewish woman whose forehead has been inscribed with a swastika. With the arrival of a German trade delegation, meanwhile, the existence of a powerful covert group comprising former SS officers becomes clear. Aimée's subsequent investigation exposes the connection between a war-time romance gone wrong and the modern-day murder. Literate prose, intricate plotting, and multifaceted and unusual characters mark this excellent first mystery."

Author Marvin Albert, who died in 1996, created a series featuring Pete Sawyer, a French-American private investigator in Paris, France. There are nine books in the series, with three still being in print: Back in the Real World (1986), Bimbo Heaven (1990) and Zig-Zag Man (1991).

Here is a description of the last book in the series, The Riviera Contract from Publishers Weekly:

"PI Peter Sawyer encounters prostitutes, movie stars, a dictatorial general and gallons of blood in this thriller set in the south of France. His trouble starts when he rescues Manon Jabot, a beautiful would-be actress, from a pounding at the hands of Sandrine Tally, a call girl who feels her territory has been invaded. When Peter drives Manon home, he learns that her father is a colonel in the service of an infamous Central American dictator who has 'retired' to the French Riviera. Two years later, when the two women have stopped feuding and become friends, Peter is called in by Manon to investigate Sandrine's disappearance; learning that she was involved in clandestine activities, he is led through a trail of corpses who have died various gruesome deaths, including a skinning in one case."

Author Anna Shone has written two books featuring Ulysses Finnegan Donaghue, a Shakespeare scholar and private investigator in Provence, France. The books are Mr. Donaghue Investigates-- APA Come Away Death-- (1995) and Secrets in Stones (1995).

Here's what Publishers Weekly had to say about the first book in the series, Mr. Donaghue Investigates:

"What do you get when you throw an American movie mogul, his pop-star wife, an Olympic judo champ, a bunch of nuns and an idiosyncratic PI named Ulysses Finnegan Donaghue into a restored 12th-century monastery in Provence? In this case: the colorful cast of this lively debut, set during a spiritual retreat at a monastery restored by the mogul, Thelonius Kapp, and his young wife, the singer Salome. The patrons' needs are tended to by a cadre of nuns who have taken vows of silence. Tranquillity, however, is shattered when Kapp collapses in agony in the chapel. Salome's young beautician is the next to die, and, after a beautiful novice is crushed beneath an ancient wine press, Donaghue joins with a local chief inspector to solve what might be murder, a double suicide or a conspiracy. An intriguing series of interviews sets off a provocative (and sometimes confusing) avalanche of information. The intuitive, Shakespeare-spouting Donaghue is a kick."

After writing this, I realize that I need to read further in Cara Black's series... and I need to add Pete Sawyer and Ulysses Finnegan Donaghue to the list as well!

Don't forget to stop by next weekend, when I'll be talking about some of the best gendarmes in France!


  1. I've only read one of the Cara Black mysteries, but I've been meaning to read more--she does setting really well, doesn't she? The other two authors are both new to me--must go check them out!

  2. Danielle-- Yes, Black does setting very well!

  3. Interestingly, I'd just bought Murder in the Marais yesterday, and started it today. I'd already read books 7-9, and had been trying to remember to pick up the first one so I could start catching up with what had come before. I'm probably 2/3 of the way through it now--is there anything to do but read when it's so hot and muggy?

  4. Struggled to comment yesterday; perhaps Blogger has not forgiven me for moving my blog to wordpress ;)

    These posts, featuring a certain country, are such a great idea. I know Cara Black is someone I should try, and Anna Shone´s series also looks extremely appealing.

  5. Pepper-- Not according to this woman, there's not!

    Dorte-- I'm glad you like these!


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