What is this about?: Aimee Leduc s a private investigator in Paris. She is asked by a Rabbi to investigate an old photograph and to present the results to Lili Stein, a old Jewish woman who lives in the Marais. Instead, Aimee finds herself investigating something bigger and more sinister, involving unmasking the identity of a collaborator from World War 2, who destroyed lives and families.
What else is this about?: For a book set in 1999, there are sentiments here that still resonate: like a treaty that nations in the book are due to sign that essentially put immigrants in concentration camps, that the death camps were just fake news. Sound familiar?
Meet Aimée Leduc, the smart, stylish Parisian private investigator, in her bestselling first investigation
Aimée Leduc has always sworn she would stick to tech investigation—no criminal cases for her. Especially since her father, the late police detective, was killed in the line of duty. But when an elderly Jewish man approaches Aimée with a top-secret decoding job on behalf of a woman in his synagogue, Aimée unwittingly takes on more than she is expecting. She drops off her findings at her client’s house in the Marais, Paris’s historic Jewish quarter, and finds the woman strangled, a swastika carved on her forehead. With the help of her partner, René, Aimée sets out to solve this horrendous murder, but finds herself in an increasingly dangerous web of ancient secrets and buried war crimes.
When I realised that the 18th book in this series was out soon, I knew I had to get started on this series now before it became an incredibly intimidating series, I couldn’t fathom getting into.
For a book written in 1999, Murder in the Marais wasn’t as dated as I thought it would be — yes, there are sentiments expressed that I could have done without, and a female investigator need not have a romantic interest for no reason. She doesn’t need to find sexy pumps to wear either.
But, at it’s core, this book had plenty to keep me hooked.
Party like it’s 1999
Cara Black takes readers and Aimee straight into the thick of the story straightaway with Aimee enlisted to find the truth of a photo for a Lili Stein, a Jewish woman. Aimee now works in corporate and cyber security after losing her father in a bomb blast previously. She came out of that with burns to her hands and lost her father.
She is convinced to take the case when the Rabbi invokes her father’s name, and the next thing she knows she’s finding Lili Stein dead in her apartment, a swastika carved into her head like people did for collaborators with the Nazis after the war.
From then on, Aimee starts to investigate Lili’s death, and finds herself embroiled in a mystery that goes back to the war.
We are also introduced to Aimee’s partner Rene, and a host of secondary characters. I didn’t think they were all necessary, especially a romantic interlude with an Aryan supremacist who suddenly turns out to be not an Aryan supremacist, but we never hear from him again.
Nazis and fake news
Alongside her investigation, Black brings in the broader political happenings of the time — and some unexpected bits of history. There is a treaty that is about to be signed in France, one with various European nations that will result in immigrants basically being treated like criminals, or close to how Jewish prisoners were during the war.
Here we are introduced to Hartmuth a politician and former German war veteran who finds himself beholden to his Nazi masters, who have infiltrated European politics. He is about to wash his hands of it all and do what they want when he finds himself face-to-face with Sarah, the Jewish girl he loved and tried to help during the war — a Sarah whose friend was Lili Stein.
This book is delves into Antisemitism in France, and just old-fashioned racism. It’s ugly and brutal, and worst are those characters that insist the death camps were fake news, a cornerstone of their effort to defend the Nazis. Seriously, sound familiar? I was amazed at how familiar sentiments still are currently, though now aimed at Muslims and refugees.
Some days I think humanity will never learn.
The book doesn’t hold back with the ugliness of it all and I appreciated that — and wondered what it must have been like in France at the time the EU was being formed.
Aimee’s case runs parallel to these political happenings, before Black ties them together and shows the true extent of her excellent plotting.
I picked this book up for obvious reasons — PARIS + Mystery — and found myself utterly engrossed to the point that I forgot to focus on the Paris of it all — Black evokes a wonderful sense of place and the city in this.
By the end of the book I realised Aimee didn’t need to accidentally find sexy pumps to escape the people pursuing her, but that’s who Aimee is — she’s quick-witted, determined and intelligent, and she just happens to look good in pumps. Whether it’s 1999 or 2018.