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Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Murder in the Marais by Cara Black

Murder in the Marais short review:

Two time periods; old betrayals surface.  Collaborators, politics, old memories, concealed identities. 

I used to enjoy doing the 6 word reviews (I can't remember who started this trend), but 6 words were just too difficult.

Murder in the Marais is the first in the Aimee Leduc series and is an interesting debut novel.  Reading the first novel in a series one can both see potential and note flaws that one can hope will be corrected in succeeding novels.  It is even better when the first novel was published over a decade ago because it is relatively quick and easy to move through the series.

I'm starting the Aimee Leduc series (recommended by a friend) at the beginning, but the example I'm going to use is from my favorite mystery/police procedural series by Reginald Hill, the Pascoe and Dalziel series.  I began reading this series with Midnight Fugue, then read everything the library had to offer, and eventually ordered some of the out of print novels from the 1970's.  It was fascinating to see the difference in quality from those first novels--the promise was there, but the promise wouldn't have engaged me sufficiently if I'd begun the series with the earliest books.

Sometimes reading a series from the beginning can be a mistake because the author has yet to get to know his characters sufficiently to engage the reader.  Going back and reading the early novels though, after becoming enthralled with the series, can provide such a fascinating examination of an author's developing style.  At least, I found it so with Reginald Hill's Fat Andy series featuring Pascoe and Dalziel.  (side note:  I could just cry when I think that Hill's death in January means no more Fat Andy, no more intriguing and intelligent novels, no more wonderful allusions....)

Back to Murder in the Marais, Cara Black does engage my interest and has interesting characters that hold great promise for development.  If her plot is sometimes over-complicated and digressive, it nevertheless is an engrossing look at the collective guilt left from the German occupation of France during WWII.  Active collaborators and those who simply turned their heads, committing the sin of omission; the self-righteous anger after Paris is liberated of those who did not actively collaborate (or who managed to keep their activity secret) and who engaged in violent retaliation against known or suspected collaborators; and the scars and sometimes open wounds that exist 50-60 years later still carry weight and influence behavior.

Aimee reluctantly take an assignment from an old friend of her father's, but when delivering the material to Lily Stein, she finds the old woman dead with a swastika carved in her forehead.  Her attempts to discover the murderer involve her in the residual evil left from the Occupation still smoldering in present-day Paris.

Yes, I will be reading more in this series and discovering more about Aimee Leduc's Paris.
I'm grateful to Teresa for this recommendation, and I have ten more books in the series to look forward to!

Fiction.  Mystery/Crime.  1999.  354 pages.


  1. I bought one of her books recently as I love novels set in Paris. I got one that is somewhere in the middle of the series.

  2. The action in all Black's books is over the top and the plots are not always believable. For example, Aimee Leduc seems to spend a lot of time in the famous Parisian sewers, but Cara Black pulled me in for the whole series. As the books' covers indicate, Paris is the main character. They remind me of a vintage and slightly more sedate, Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.