This is the eighth "Aimee Leduc Investigation" written by the cosmopolitan Cara Black, who lives in San Francisco but visits Paris, the setting for her novels, often. Aimee has a serious crush on Yves Robert, an urbane investigative journalist she thinks has been on assignment in Egypt, but really it was Turkey.
Evidently, trouble followed him back to Paris, because soon after he proposes to her and puts a Turkish betrothal ring on her finger, he is murdered. She is summoned the next day to the Brigade Criminelle to identify the body that was found in a doorway in the Rue de Paradis. One witness alleges that the killer was a woman.
Emotionally drained but determined to avenge her lover's murder, she starts to use her expertise, quickly becoming enmeshed in a Turkish-Kurdish political controversy, metro bombings, sleeper cells and warring Muslim factions.
Set in 1995, this mystery evolves in a pre-9/11 world where terrorism is strongly evident, and the savvy author uses incidents from the 1990s to foreshadow the terror blowup that occurred on 9/11.
The narrative is filled with French words and phrases used skillfully by an author who knows Paris as if she were born there. The dialogue is clever, witty and mysterious, and the style immediately draws in the reader. The city and all its secret places come alive with such convincing style that the reader can visualize and even smell the surroundings.
Black writes, "She walked downwind, opened the Citroen's door, and sat, the hot leather burning her thighs. In the glove compartment she found Rene's oversize blue Plan de Paris, the taxi driver's street bible, and opened to the tenth arrondissement. With a pencil she marked the canal loft location; Microimage, where she'd met Yves; the Gare du Nord; and then the rue de Paradis.
"She drew lines connecting them. Two lines intersected, making a right angle. Almost a triangle. Yet it told her nothing. She wished his colleagues from Agence France-Presse would call; they had to know what Yves was working on."
The author is impressively polished, yet the story moves with great speed.
The reader's hands perspire as Aimee takes chance after chance and visits places that are not only dangerous but seemingly foolhardy. She uses a physical and intellectual agility to slip out of countless situations that threaten her own mortality.
This is daring detective work and high suspense written with an intellectual edge, for readers who enjoy thinking. Periodically, Aimee risks being overtaken with sadness and self-pity, but she is quick enough and smart enough to snap out of it just in time. There are numerous twists and turns, all of them charmingly developed as this most unusual private investigator moves confidently toward resolution. This is a keeper.It may also be wise to look for the other seven Aimee Leduc investigations.