First Line: Aimée Leduc's cell phone rang, startling her, as she drove under the leafy poplars tenting the road to Paris.
The phone call is from the sister of Aimée's friend Martine. Anaïs is the self-absorbed wife of a government minister. Crying and frightened, she insists that Aimée meet her on a street in the tough neighborhood of Belleville. Belleville, once the home of internationally famous singer Édith Piaf, is now better known for its high concentration of Arab immigrants.
Aimée arrives at the address, and she and Anaïs narrowly escape a car bombing which kills the former mistress of Anaïs's husband. Although the explosion has brought back all the horror of her own father's death, Aimée reluctantly agrees to try to find out why this particular woman would have been the target of a bomb.
The further she digs, the more unsettling are the clues she finds. The dead woman had an alias, and it appears that she led a double life. In one, she was the mistress of a government minister, in the other, she was right in the middle of a situation involving a secret North African radical group. As Aimée continues her investigation, she attracts the notice of people who will stop at nothing to end her snooping, but her findings-- that there is a dark side to immigrant politics that the government doesn't want known-- are too important to ignore.
Author Cara Black is sending me on a tour of Paris, France, one book-- and one neighborhood-- at a time. It is a tour that I am fast learning to savor. A little bit of historical background, a little architecture... add interesting local characters, an intriguing puzzle, and a stylish private eye who doesn't know when to quit, and I'm settled in for the evening.
I found the politically charged theme of immigration to be absorbing, and the more crime fiction I read that's set outside the United States, the more I learn that this is also a problem in many parts of the world. (If you read mysteries set outside the US, you also learn other countries' equivalents of dialing 911 and other bits of trivia such as the fact that "Jane Does" are called "Yvette" in France.)
Aimée is just the sort of strong yet vulnerable character that I like to follow in a series, and the action-filled finale of Murder in Belleville found me starting to chew a fingernail more than once. The only thing in the entire book that bothered me was Aimée's on-again-off-again lover, Yves, whom I found distracting. Fortunately his scenes are few, so he was a minor annoyance.
Do you love France? Do you love reading books set in other countries? Do you love strong-yet-flawed main characters? Do you love carefully crafted mysteries? If you said yes to any of these questions, I would suggest you get your hands on a book written by Cara Black so you can become acquainted with Aimée Leduc!
Murder in Belleville by Cara Black
Soho Crime ©2000
Paperback, 368 pages
Genre: Private Investigator, #2 Aimée Leduc mystery
Source: Paperback Swap