In her new book author Cara Black, a one-time Patpong bar hostess, explores the early life of Aimée Leduc—her infamous detective heroine
In her new novel, Cara Black shows why she is a New York Times bestselling author, as well as a Macavity Award winner, and three-time Anthony Award nominee (the latter are both literary awards given to mystery writers). Her 2016 book Murder on the Quai is a prequel to her Aimée Leduc detective franchise—which numbers 16 strong—and is set during a six-day period in 1989.
The mystery unfolds on November 9th in Paris, the day after the Berlin wall comes tumbling down. It’s a “looking back” story for fans of the chic detective who emerges fully in later years. At this juncture, however, Aimée is just 19 years old, and a first-year medical student at Paris Descartes University. She prefers cowboy boots and wearing her father’s leather jacket while roaming the streets of Paris by foot, bicycle, or motorbike (complete with cumbersome sidecar).
Periodically the story flashes back to Germany, circa 1942, where we learn that four French country farmers come across a German Nazi truck stuck in the mud—loaded with gold and on the wrong side of the river during a heavy storm. Four Germans die at the hands of the farmers, but the fifth one escapes. The farmers plot to keep the gold hidden until the war ends, and at one point they kill a Vichy village mayor, considering him a “loose end”.
Meanwhile—back in 1989—a heavy-set, well-dressed provincial who couldn’t “rub off the village dirt” is murdered in Paris. He’s left to float beneath a bridge traversing the Seine after being shot in ritualistic fashion. The daughter of the murdered man, a distant cousin of Aimée, contacts Jean-Claude Leduc. Jean-Claude is a former policeman and Aimée’s father who now runs his own detective agency. The firm is hired to follow-up on a classic match box clue found in the dead man’s pocket—the name “Suzy”, and a mysterious phone number. Jean-Claude has business to take care of in Berlin, involving his former wife (Aimée’s renegade American mother), so the daughter detective works her first case alone with only a counterfeit private investigator card and her intuition to guide her.
The 1989 setting proves interesting. It is a time of pagers, brick sized mobile phones, fax machines, Dallas on the television, and Madonna hits playing on CDs in the background. Along the way, we learn how Aimée finds her dog, a Bichon Frise she names Miles Davis. We also learn where she meets the 4’0” tall, green eyed dwarf René, a computer wizard who goes on to be her partner in crime-solving throughout the later series.
The importance of family members comes through loud and clear in this prequel, as the Leduc values—including perseverance—are instilled in our protagonist at an early age. She’s tough, she’s smart, and she gets through her first romantic disappointment with a panache that is admirable.
The whodunit ratchets up in believable fashion when a second old man is murdered and is also found floating in the Seine. One senses the resourceful Aimée’s allegiance to her prestigious medical school is waning as her interest in the family business begins to grow. Revenge seems to be a likely motive, but by whom? To keep the reader baited, author Black provides more than the usual suspects. The German-French connection results in much tragedy and misdirection before resolution occurs—but not without considerable cost to the Leduc family.
Murder on the Quai is sure to be enjoyed by fans of the series, and readers of quality crime mysteries. Travelers with a casual to thorough knowledge of ‘The City of Light’ will derive added pleasure from this well plotted tale.
About the author: Chicago-born Cara Black is a cigar-loving, award-winning San Francisco based author who also has a Bangkok connection. She lived in the city for five months while the Vietnam War was in full swing. As her Amazon author page states, she worked on Patpong Road as a Bangkok “bar girl” during that stint. But, as she quickly adds, she only poured drinks!
To learn more about Cara Black and her novels,
Murder on the Quai
An Aimée Leduc crime novel | 336 pages
Available in eBook and hardcover format (paperback is coming out in May 2017)|
Words by Kevin Cummings Photo by Alasdair McLeod