Murder in Pigalle (Aimee Leduc Series #14) [NOOK Book]

Overview

New York Times Bestseller Cara Black’s fashionable Parisian P.I. Aimée Leduc has a new look for her 14th adventure: five months pregnant.

June, 1998: Paris’s sticky summer heat is even more oppressive than usual as rowdy French football fans riot in anticipation of the World Cup. Private investigator Aimée Leduc has been trying to slow down her hectic lifestyle—she’s five months pregnant and has the baby’s well-being to think about now. But ...
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Murder in Pigalle (Aimee Leduc Series #14)

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Overview

New York Times Bestseller Cara Black’s fashionable Parisian P.I. Aimée Leduc has a new look for her 14th adventure: five months pregnant.

June, 1998: Paris’s sticky summer heat is even more oppressive than usual as rowdy French football fans riot in anticipation of the World Cup. Private investigator Aimée Leduc has been trying to slow down her hectic lifestyle—she’s five months pregnant and has the baby’s well-being to think about now. But then disaster strikes close to home. A serial rapist has been terrorizing Paris’s Pigalle neighborhood, following teenage girls home and attacking them in their own houses. Zazie, the 13-year-old daughter of the proprietor of Aimée’s favorite café, has disappeared. The police aren’t mobilizing quickly enough, and when Zazie’s desperate parents approach Aimée for help, she knows she couldn’t say no even if she wanted to.


From the Hardcover edition.
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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
03/01/2014
Edgy and appealing French detective Aimée Leduc is back, and she's got a young detective in her wake: 13-year-old Zazie, the red-headed daughter of the café owners at the corner. Distressed by an attack on a girl at her school, Zazie is compiling a dossier with news clippings about a similar attack and tracking a suspect to a local bar. Aimée tries to dissuade her from further sleuthing by promising to look at her dossier, but then Zazie goes missing. While Aimée pulls out all the stops in a frantic search, an ex-con trying to go straight finds himself dragged into one last operation with the daughter he's trying to wrest from her wastrel mother held over his head as a threat. As readers anticipate how these two cases will converge, suspense remains taut, further heightened by Aimée's being five months pregnant. At the end, though, she proves to be one tough mother-to-be with a gun. VERDICT Following Murder Below Montparnasse, this latest in the treasured Aimée Leduc series keeps to the high standard of the series while nicely deepening Aimée as a character and leading her in a new direction.—Barbara Hoffert, Library Journal
Publishers Weekly
01/13/2014
Set amid the madness of the 1998 World Cup final, Black’s well-crafted 14th Aimée Leduc investigation (after 2013’s Murder Below Montparnasse) finds the Parisian PI, who’s five-months pregnant, ready to take a break and ponder her future as a single mom. Aimée has reduced her workload, taking mostly cases involving cybercrime, but the disappearance of 13-year-old Zazie Duclos, the daughter of good friends and an Aimée wannabe, snaps her back into active investigator mode. Further complicating the disappearance—in addition to World Cup fever and a daring heist—is a string of recent rapes by a serial pedophile that the police appear to have put on the back burner. Despite her pregnancy, Aimée throws her whole self into the mix, risking life and limb to rescue the girl. A strong sense of place and a deliciously twisted plot more than compensate for some stilted dialogue. Agent: Linda Allen, Linda Allen Literary Agency. (Mar.)
From the Publisher
Praise for Murder in Pigalle

"The stylish sleuth in Cara Black’s blithe mysteries set in Paris, is making an odd fashion statement in Murder in Pigalle—ill-fitting frocks and low heels. Almost six months pregnant and showing it . . . But once the investigation takes a detour into the cavernous sewers of the city, she proves she can still find her way home in the dark."
—New York Times Book Review

"Leduc is a refreshing and entertaining guide to Parisian neighborhoods and cultures, especially those that well-established tourist routes typically pass by. Let’s hope she never runs out of districts to scoot around in."
—The Seattle Times

"Captivating . . . Black weaves in ’90s politics and a lush sense of Leduc’s Parisian home into the book. In 2014’s Murder in the Pigalle, based on a real-life crime, Paris is gearing to host the 1998 World Cup. Black captures the sensuality of record temperatures, with the description of the cassis-limon ice cream at Berthillon, and the fear that permeates the Pigalle."
—BBC's Between the Lines

"[Black] draws the reader into the intricacies of Paris while driving the mystery forward to make it an ultimate page-turner."
—The San Francisco Chronicle

"Readers will be sitting on the edge of their seats . . . Spectacular."
—Suspense Magazine

"Chic and utterly charming . . . This book has a darker tone than earlier ones in the series, but it still has Black's distinctive flair."
Carole E. Barrowman, The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

"One tough mother-to-be . . . The treasured Aimée Leduc series keeps to the high standard of the series while nicely deepening Aimée as a character and leading her in a new direction."
Barbara Hoffert, Library Journal

"The combination of vividly evoked Parisian neighborhoods and a bewitching, stylish heroine continues to make this series as tasty as a chunk of French chocolate."
—Booklist

"Even an unplanned pregnancy can’t slow down Paris detective Aimée Leduc . . .  Black's 14th shows Aimée just as determined as ever to live life on her own terms and stand up for those who can’t."
—Kirkus Reviews

"Written in an intelligent style, well-told, and satisfying."
—Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine

"Black writes [as] vividly as she has in the previous thirteen."
—The Weirs Times

"Of all the books in this series that I've read, Murder in Pigalle is the strongest. I can't wait to see what Cara Black has in store for us next."  
—Kittling Books

"The best Aimée Leduc investigation yet!"
—Kingdom Books

"If you have followed this series and its central characters you'll not want to miss this latest installment. On the other hand, if you enjoy atmospheric suspense stories with exotic settings and characters and haven't yet followed Aimée Leduc around Paris, this might be the perfect time to do so."
—Bookloons

Praise for the Aimée Leduc series

"Transcendently, seductively, irresistibly French."
—Alan Furst

"Wry, complex, sophisticated, intensely Parisian . . . One of the very best heroines in crime fiction today."
—Lee Child

"So authentic you can practically smell the fresh baguettes and coffee."
—Val McDermid

“[Cara Black] is on to a good thing: each of her novels is set in a colorful Parisian neighborhood—and there are a lot of them. The cumulative result of reading this addictive series is a sort of mini-tour of the city, as seen through a filter of fictional murder . . . Leduc is always a reliable and charming guide to the city's lesser-known corners.”
The Seattle Times

“Black creates rich, plausible characters, giving them individuality and depth.”
San Francisco Gate

"Cara Black's Paris-based crime novels have fans by the legion."
—The Telegraph

Kirkus Reviews
2014-03-06
Even an unplanned pregnancy can't slow down Paris detective Aimée Leduc (Murder Below Montparnasse, 2013, etc.). Pigalle in the 1990s is still very much a mixed quartier. Sex shops and seedy bars jostle family-owned stores and bistros whose owners live in small apartments above. 13-year old Zazie Duclos lives in one such apartment, perched atop her parents' cafe. But Zazie wants to become a detective, not a shopkeeper. She haunts Aimée's office on rue de Louvre, hoping to learn the secret of Leduc's detective success. Then, suddenly, Zazie has a case of her own. A rapist has his sights set on the young lycée students in her neighborhood. Zazie borrows a high-resolution camera from a friend and takes pictures of a mec she's been shadowing. Armed with a FotoFit of the suspect, she asks Aimée to help her investigate. Then she disappears. The attacks continue. Sylvaine Olivet dies after being assaulted. But neighborhood parents close ranks against Aimée: Mélanie Vasseur's parents spirit her away to a clinic in Switzerland, the Olivets threaten to press charges against her, even Papa Duclos begs her to stop investigating. She doesn't, much to the distress of her business partner, René Friant, who's frantically ordering port-a-cribs for the office while Mélac, her baby's dad, sits at the bedside of his critically injured daughter in Brittany. Although Madame Pelletier of the Brigade des Minuers insists that Zazie's probably off chasing some boy, Aimée knows that somewhere in the stewpot of Pigalle, Zazie is waiting for her, the only person who can come to her rescue. Black's 15th shows Aimée just as determined as ever to live life on her own terms and stand up for those who can't.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781616952853
  • Publisher: Soho Press, Incorporated
  • Publication date: 3/4/2014
  • Series: Aimee Leduc Series , #14
  • Sold by: Barnes & Noble
  • Format: eBook
  • Sales rank: 96,588
  • File size: 3 MB

Meet the Author

Cara Black
Cara Black is the author of fifteen books in the New York Times bestselling Aimée Leduc series. She lives in San Francisco with her husband and visits Paris frequently.


From the Hardcover edition.
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Read an Excerpt

Paris, June 1998. Monday, 1:15 P.M.

Stepping into the shadowed cool of Passage Verdeau, Aimée Leduc welcomed the reprieve from the late-June heat—but not the barrel of the Uzi blocking her way. Stifling a gasp, she clutched her stomach, felt a flutter.
     “Mind lowering that?” she said to the CRS riot officer standing in her path.
Dim light filtered through the nineteenth-century passage’s glass roof and onto the cracked mosaic under her heels. The smell of old books hung in the narrow passage, heightened the faded charm of the shop fronts.
     “Use the other exit, Mademoiselle . . . er, Madame.”
     What was disrupting traffic this time? Another demonstration? World Cup fever igniting riots? Pre-Fête de la Musique revels? End of exams? This week there was so much to choose from.
     She shouldered her second-hand Birkin bag, prenatal vitamins rattling against the mascara tubes and Beretta summer catalogues. “What’s the problem?”
     “Aimée?”
     She blinked, recognizing the voice and the face under the riot helmet. “Daniel! You had training wheels on your bike the last time I saw you.” It was her godfather Morbier’s nephew. Fond memories returned of pushing him on a rope swing at her grandmother’s Auvergne farm. “Seems you’ve graduated to new toys.”
     “And you’re pregnant, Aimée.” Daniel smiled, slung his Uzi behind his shoulder and kissed both of her cheeks. “Never thought you’d join the bourgeoisie. Married, eh? Someone I know?”
     “It’s complicated.” She averted her eyes. Melac, her baby’s father, didn’t know she was pregnant. He’d taken leave from the Brigade Criminelle to go back to Brittany and sit at his daughter’s hospital bedside—she had been in a coma since a bus accident four months ago.
     “Still working, too,” Daniel said.
     “Cyber crime never takes a holiday.” Thank God for that, or Leduc Detective would be out of business. “Don’t tell me it’s the sewer workers demonstrating again?” A sigh escaped her as she imagined the choked traffic and tar fumes from the hot pavement.
     “Nothing so pungent,” he said. “Security detail.”
     Aimée’s eyes widened. In CRS speak that meant there had been a security threat, patrols and surveillance. “A bomb threat?”
     Daniel’s eyes veiled. “Nothing that exciting.”
     “Zut, Daniel, you used to play with my Lego. Spill.”
     Muttering under his breath, he said, “The powers that be
don’t relish the City of Light being tarnished by corruption . . .”
     But she didn’t catch the rest, as the commander barked an order to advance. His CRS unit continued forward, toward the Grands Boulevards lined by leafy lime trees. Their thumping boots trampled the fallen blossoms, emitting a waft of citrus.
     As Aimée waited at the bus stop near the Opéra, her impatience mounted. Shoppers and office workers filled the zebra-striped crosswalks, traffic clogged the boulevards and, comme toujours, middle-aged hookers plied their trade on rue Joubert behind the Printemps department store. By the time she reached her office building on rue du Louvre, a fine sheen of perspiration dotted her upper lip.
     The shaking wire-cage elevator wheezed up to the third floor. Fishing out her compact, she checked her lipstick then stepped out onto the scuffed landing. Leduc Detective’s frostedglass door was open.
     René had ordered new shelving for a wall module to make room for the crib, and there was a strange man in overalls tapping away at her office wall. Aimée stifled her irritation. All the baby preparation had become a bone of contention between her and René—like a lot of things these days. It was like he was the one having her baby—eat this, not that; exercise, don’t lift.
      Hot recycled air spun from the old fan under the office chandelier, and lemony afternoon light slanted over the parquet floor. She couldn’t wait to nudge off her peep-toe kitten heels, put her feet up and drink something cold. Shuffling noises came from the rear.
     “René?”
     A head of curly red hair popped up from behind Aimée’s desk. It belonged to Zazie, the thirteen-year-old daughter of the café owners on the corner. A worried look shone in Zazie’s eyes. “René’s gone to the tax office, Aimée. Said you should start praying.”
     Aimée groaned. René had spent all last night calculating their revenue. If they didn’t figure something out quickly they’d have to pay a penalty—with what money, she didn’t know. The curse of the last week in June!
     The worker in overalls set his hammer down by their printer.
“Tell Monsieur Friant I’ve taken the measurements,” he said as
he left. “Delivery tomorrow.”
     She could do with an iced espresso right now. And taking
a load off her feet. The hottest June in years! She caught her
breath.
     “Are you all right, Aimée?” asked Zazie, her eyes big.
     “Fine.” She let herself down into René’s ergonomic chair and kicked off her heels. The cold wood floor chilled her feet. Almost six months pregnant and still nausea in the morning. “Wait une petite seconde. Why aren’t you in class?”
     Zazie played with the red tassel on her backpack’s zipper, averted her gaze.
     “What’s wrong, Zazie?”
     When she met Aimée’s eyes, her lip quivered. “Mélanie, a girl in my school, was . . . attacked.”
     “Attacked?” Concerned, Aimée took Zazie’s hand. “Sit down. Tell me what happened.”
     Zazie took a school binder labeled Suspect W and pulled out a newspaper clipping. The headline read, Twelve-yearold Lycée student sexually assaulted in home after school.
     Aimée blinked, horrified. “What is Suspect W? Is this some grotesque class project? I don’t understand.”
     “Mélanie’s not the first.” Zazie’s voice quavered. “She’s in the clinic, but she told me things, terrible things.”
     “This is your friend, in the article?” Aimée shuddered. “Zazie, how frightening . . .”
     “Not just frightening. But . . .” Zazie hesitated. “There’s more.” She showed Aimée another clipping, dated from last December. Twelve-year-old victim of brutal sexual assault discovered by parents. “It must be the same person,” Zazie said. “Shouldn’t someone do something to stop it, Aimée?”
     “But you don’t know they’re related,” Aimée said, although her mind was turning. A serial rapist preying on young girls?
     Her skin prickled as she remembered that long-ago afternoon, a hot, humid June just like this one, when she was eight years old. It was soon after her American mother had disappeared. On Île Saint-Louis a man had followed her after school. He’d offered her an ice cream at Bertillon’s on the corner—she could almost taste the cassis-limon. But something in the man’s smile, the way he stroked her bare arm, had made her shiver. “Can’t I tickle you?” She backed away, ran down rue des Deux Ponts around the corner to the quai and into her courtyard.
     Her mind came back to the present at the rrrrrr of Zazie’s backpack zipper, which the girl was still playing with anxiously.
Two similar attacks in a short period of time, both on girls about Zazie’s age—one of them Zazie’s friend. Could Zazie be right? Could it be one man? Had the flics put it together yet, and if not, might there be other victims? Aimée’s stomach clenched.
     “You have to be careful, Zazie. Never let anyone follow you home.”
     Zazie chewed her lip. “I have to do something.”
     “Bien sûr, support your friend, she needs you right now.”
     “Don’t you get it, Aimée?” Zazie shook her head. “Zut, I want to stop him. The police aren’t doing anything. If they were, they would have caught him before he hurt Mélanie.”
Her eyes shone with anger. “If the flics aren’t paying attention, then I have to find him.”
     Not again.
     “Playing detective, Zazie? Don’t be silly. We’ve talked about this.” She strengthened her grip on Zazie’s hand. “Alors! Do you know how dangerous someone like that can be? You can’t take on someone like that on your own.”
     Zazie thrust a FotoFit, a computer-generated image culled from composite descriptions, into Aimée’s hand. “That’s what he looks like.”
     Small, deep-set eyes, thin mouth, wearing a cap. He could be anyone. “How do you know?”
     “Mélanie described him to the flics.”
     “So the flics are working to find him, then.” Aimée shuddered. “They can’t get him off the streets too soon.”
     “The flics haven’t put it together, Aimée. They made this composite, but they’re not moving fast enough. Mélanie was
attacked three days ago, and they have no leads! He’s got a pattern, he’ll attack again.” Zazie’s face was set with determination. “No girl’s safe until someone finds him and brings him right to their door, but I know who he is. I recognized him from the FotoFit. Now I just have to prove it’s him.”
     Alarmed now, Aimée decided she needed to reason with her. “Whether he’s the one or not, it’s the flics’ job to find him. Not yours, Zazie. If you think you know who this man is who attacked your friend, you tell the flics and then you stay away from him, do you understand me?”
     “All the parents went to the Commissariat for a meeting, even the teachers came,” said Zazie. “The flics talked about the mec’s constitutional rights, harassment without evidence. Mélanie’s mother was crying. Can you imagine?”
     She could. The burden of proof wasn’t always fair. She’d seen it too many times. She looked into this child’s eyes and saw a budding young woman with the world’s weight on her shoulders. An innocent, but for how much longer?
     Her eye caught on the papers in Zazie’s open Suspect W binder. “Wait a minute, what’s this?” She pointed to a black-and-white photo of a street scene. “This photo looks like it was shot with a telephoto lens.”
     Zazie nodded. “My friend’s got a good camera. It’s surveillance, like you and René do. The suspect goes to this bar on rue Pierre Fontaine in Pigalle.”
     Aimée stifled a gasp. The photo was a night shot—what had this child seen? She knew that street in Pigalle, and it was no place for Zazie after dark. In the daytime, the area below Place Pigalle was a peaceful world of families, fishmongers, boulangeries and shops; costume ateliers that supplied the vibrant theatrical scene in the thirteen theaters dotting the quartier; actresses with their children at the park. But at night it was another world entirely: drugs, prostitutes, hustlers, pimps, sex shops, massage parlors. A red-light district.
     “How do you know he goes there?” Aimée said carefully.
     “I followed him to the NeoCancan.”
     Aimée wanted to spank Zazie, but she was too big. “Followed him, Zazie? What were you thinking?”
     “He hung around outside our school.”
     Goosebumps rose on Aimée’s arms. She reached out and touched Zazie’s cheek. “That’s too dangerous. No more, Zazie. Please promise me.”
     “If I promise not to go myself, will you check out the bar?”
     “Moi?
     Zazie’s goal all along, she realized. But she recognized herself in Zazie—that striving to be taken seriously. Her father had always taken time with her, his patience insurmountable. But right now Aimée didn’t feel that she could live up to his example and take on Zazie’s little investigation. She had to pee every half hour, her ankles swelled, there was the nausea in the morning. She’d like to smack the next person who told her morning sickness ended with the first trimester. Then this damned tax . . . This was a job for the flics, who, it seemed, were already working on it—although privately Aimée shared Zazie’s doubts. She knew how good the flics were at listening to witnesses, and if this FotoFit was all they had to go on, they really didn’t have much.
     Not that Zazie had any more than they did, whatever she thought.
     Aimée heard the hum of a cell phone on vibrate. Zazie pulled a purple phone from her jeans pocket. Just turned thirteen and she had a cell phone?
     “When did you get a phone?”
     “My uncle’s letting me use his,” she said, pride creeping into her voice. She glanced at the display and put the unanswered phone back in her pocket. “I’m late, got to study, finish my class project,” she said. “Can you help, Aimée?”
     Help her? What could Aimée do, other than tell Zazie’s parents to ground her after school and make some calls to a flic she once knew in Vice?
     “Just look over my notes, please?”
     “On one condition, Zazie,” she said, taking the binder. “Study for your exams, and leave this alone while I get up to speed on your . . .” Aimée searched for the right word. “Report.”
     Zazie’s eyes widened in thanks. She jotted her cell-phone number on the binder. “Then we’ll compare notes tonight, d’accord? Later, Aimée.” With a wave, Zazie had gone out the door.
     Deep in thought, Aimée ground the last of René’s beans and powered up their espresso machine, watched the chocolate brown drip into the demi-tasse cup. A little girl hunting the rapist of her schoolmate—compelled to help her friend since the flics were making no progress. What was the world coming to?
     Zazie wore lip gloss and a touch of mascara these days, but Aimée remembered the young Zazie, sitting behind the café counter and coloring with crayons. Aimée had watched her grow up over the years. Telling Zazie flat-out to stop this would get her nowhere. She’d deflected her for the present, but Aimée knew it was only temporary.
     No ice in the suitcase-sized fridge. With a sigh Aimée plopped two brown sugar cubes in the demi-tasse, stirred.
     Even now, years later, she vibrated with fear remembering how the man had continued following her, standing and waiting on the quai outside their apartment. She remembered the hot wind blowing the curtain as she’d stood in the window and pointed him out to her father when he got home, then a flic at the Commissariat.
     “That one? Good girl, Aimée,” he’d said. “Go finish your homework.”
     She’d never seen the man again. And her father had upped her allowance. “In case you want ice cream.”
     Now Aimée punched in the café number—she needed to speak with Virginie, Zazie’s mother, and warn her about Zazie’s project. Busy. She was about to slip back into her heels and go down to the corner café in person when Leduc Detective’s phone lines lit up. Clients needed attention, networks needed security, virus scans needed running. Crunch time, like every year in June—impossible to avoid since, as contractors, they were always the last to be paid. René always had only a short window to add the last-moment revenue and compute their estimated taxes.
     By the time she looked up again, the shadows on rue du Louvre had lengthened. Almost 7 p.m. and still no René. The butterscotch glow of the evening sun reflected on the mansard windows opposite—the sun set late in the summer, and there were at least another two and a half hours of daylight.
     Aimée satisfied her latest craving from the stash in the small fridge in back: cornichons, capers and kiwis. Didn’t that cover at least three food groups?
     Still more scans to monitor, but she’d run out of décaféiné espresso beans and she needed to speak to Virginie tonight, before Zazie took things too far.
     But when Aimée entered the bustling café she didn’t see Zazie where she would normally be on busy evenings, helping at the counter. The télé, a new addition for the World Cup, showed a play-off game, and the café was filled with shouts and the smell of spilled beer.
     “How you feeling, Aimée?” said Virginie, making change for customers at a window table. “Got over the morning sickness?”
     She wished. “Not yet.” The malted beer odor filled her nose, but her stomach stayed in place. For once.
     “Don’t I remember,” said Virginie.
     Warm air rippled in from the street and a dog barked outside the open door. Aimée caught Virginie’s eye. “Can we talk before Zazie gets back? It’s important.”
     “Zazie’s late.”
     Aimée felt a prickling up her spine.
     One of the flushed-faced World Cup fans walked up to pay.
     “Alors,” Virginie said. “Do me a favor and make two cafés crèmes for those ladies down the counter? And help yourself to n express.”
     “Pas de problème,” she said. Not the first time she’d barista’d. She whacked the grinds out from the stainless steel, frothed the milk with a whoosh and dolloped foam. The steaming brown– black liquid dripped serré, double strength, for her.
     Sipping her décaféiné express, she followed Virginie behind the zinc counter to the unventilated back kitchen. Steaming heat came from the stove. “You’re working by yourself tonight?”
Aimée asked.
     “Pierre’s gone for more wine, the baby’s with my niece.” Virginie wiped her face with a towel, reached for a tray. “This World Cup makes for booming business. We’re run off our feet. Pierre’s brother’s supposed to help.” Virginie sighed. “Don’t know why I gave in and let Zazie use his phone when she won’t answer it.”
     Zazie wasn’t answering her phone? Aimée made herself take a deep breath. There could be a reasonable explanation. Not the horrific one her mind jumped to. “Dites-moi, how late is she?”
     “An hour.” Virginie glanced at the wall clock. “More. Not like her with exams coming up. She’ll have to answer to her father now.”
     All Aimée could think was that Zazie had gone to surveil the bar again. She was underage, but she would somehow talk her way in. Or watch this “rapist” she thought she’d tracked down from the street.
     Aimée pulled out her phone, scrolled to the number she’d entered for Zazie. “Let me try her.”
     No answer.
     “She could be in the Métro and have no service. Stuck in a—” She caught herself before she said dead zone.
     Virginie blinked. A momentary stillness settled over her  and then she grabbed Aimée’s arms. Irritation mixed with fear in her eyes. “She’s told you about Mélanie’s assault, hasn’t she? Her silly plan. I forbade her to get involved.”
     “That’s why I wanted to talk.”
     “Tonight, she said she was going to study with Sylvaine.” Virginie emanated an almost palpable tension. “It sounded perfectly safe but now she’s so late, and not answering her phone . . .”
     This feeling piercing Aimée’s gut told her Zazie had another agenda. Calm, she had to stay calm for Virginie. “Do you know Sylvaine’s number?”
     Footsteps and someone entered the café. Hope and anger fluttered in Virginie’s eyes. “There she is, about time.”
     But it was Pierre, her husband, wiping his forehead with a bandana and pushing a dolly loaded with wine cases. “Zazie’s still not here? Tables five and six want to order. Number seven needs their bill.”
     On the board above the sink Virginie took down the business card of a cheese shop on rue de Rochechouart. “Sylvaine’s family run this shop, and live above it. I’ll call them.”
     “Does Sylvaine have a cell phone, like Zazie?”
     “Impossible. Georges, her father, is old-fashioned.” Pierre winked.
     “And très religeux—the whole family is,” Virginie said. “That’s why Pierre thinks Sylvaine’s a good influence on Zazie.”
     Aimée wiped her perspiring brow, wishing for a whisper of air in the hot kitchen. Standing next to Virginie, she listened to the ringing and ringing. “Alors, they won’t answer this late . . .”
     But Aimée heard a click. Muffled sounds. “Allô, Georges, it’s Virginie,” she said. “What? Say that again.” A whisper of fear went up Aimée’s neck. “An ambulance?”
     Virginie dropped the receiver into the sink. Time slowed for Aimée as an explosion of Persil soap suds and brown-stained espresso cups burst from the sink, the foamy spray arcing as if in a freeze-frame—and she knew this moment would be imprinted on her consciousness forever.
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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Posted September 21, 2014

    more from this reviewer

    Five months pregnant and suffering from morning sickness and oth

    Five months pregnant and suffering from morning sickness and other discomforts, Aimee Leduc still has the drive to investigate a series of rapes in the famous Pigalle district of Paris in this, the 14th novel in the series. And, of course, getting herself into all kinds of dangerous situations, despite her delicate condition.

    When the 13-year-old daughter of the couple that owns the café on the corner of her office fails to return home, Aimee is enlisted to find her. The fear, of course, is that what appears to be a serial rapist who preys on young girls has abducted her. Aimee to the rescue. What is unknown at the time is a subplot which intertwines with that theory. But never fear: Aimee is on the job.

    The story is to some degree based on a true Parisian crime that took place in 1998. As in past novels in the series, detailed descriptions of Paris, and especially the area in which the tale takes place, permeate the pages, lending flavor as usual. The book gets off to a rather slow start, with a lot of superfluous detail, but gathers steam as it goes. While all the previous novels have been somber (after all, serious crimes are involved), this book is grim given the age of the victims and the gravity of the harm that comes to Aimee. Given impending motherhood, the question arises: Is it time to retire?

    Recommended.

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  • Posted May 14, 2014

    more from this reviewer

    Back in March (2014), mystery writers Rhys Bowen and Cara Black

    Back in March (2014), mystery writers Rhys Bowen and Cara Black made an appearance at the Alhambra Civic Library for a panel discussion about their work. Hearing Black talk about her latest book, Murder in Pigalle, piqued my interest. I decided to give the fourteenth novel in her Aimée Léduc series a try.

    The book is set in Quartier Pigalle, a district in Paris historically known for its wild nightlife – clubs, brothels, and the like. (Think Moulin Rouge…I mean literally. That’s where it’s located.) Private Investigator Aimée Léduc is pregnant and should be taking it easy, as her hormonal behavior proves, but she can’t stop worrying about her young friend Zazie. The thirteen-year-old was in the middle of her own investigation behind another girl’s sexual assault when she disappears. Aimée is convinced this is more than a mere coincidence even if the police are not, and finds herself on the trail of a serial rapist and murderer. The closer she gets, the more someone tries to shut her up.

    Now when I read fiction, the most important thing to me is whether the story is engaging. A strong beginning and a heart-wrenching plot lured me in. Really, who can’t help but sympathize with Aimée’s desperation to find this dear girl? I finished Murder in Pigalle in about four days, a quick read for me especially since it was final exam week for my students. It delivered well on the excitement. However, the story seemed disjointed, fluttering from here to there. Although dead ends, false leads, and side plots make for a realistic story, in the end I felt like the really important characters weren’t given equal time. The final resolution seemed to come out of nowhere and was more than a little disappointing.

    I also think Black could improve on how she portrays French people. The characters seemed too American, and used too many “Americanisms” in their dialogue. (Do Europeans really ever say “Eurotrash”?) The history lessons felt like an attempt to cover up the missing presence of a distinctive culture. The insertion of random French words, although nowhere near as obnoxious Etiquette Grrls’ habit, didn’t add the authenticity that I suspect the author was going for. When I read authors like Agatha Christie and Alexander McCall Smith (of No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency fame), I really feel as if I’m in a different time and place. With Murder in Pigalle, I never once felt as though I were in France, and the promise of that experience had been part of its initial attraction for me.

    As for the main characters, I’m entering the series so late in the game, so I don’t have the benefit of knowing their past histories that might make sense of their behavior at times. Aimée Léduc seems to be a great PI. She’s adventurous and willing to risk her own neck (not to mention her unborn child) to solve this case. She reminds me of Nora Charles (of The Thin Man) walking around with a prop dog, although her infatuation with designer labels gives her a lot less class. What bugs me about Aimée Léduc is that for her “the ends justify the means.” That is, breaking the law herself is okay if it means convicting her suspect or saving her own skin. Her selfishness is evident in how she actively shuts out her baby’s father, who’s clearly interested in having a relationship with the child. Instead she eats up the slavish devotion of her business partner René Friant, who seems to be more of a liability than an asset for her detective agency.

    Let me psychoanalyze for a bit. René’s short stature and inability to bed the heroine makes him envious of other men blessed with good looks and active sex lives. SPOILER ALERT: His eagerness to play the hero, protecting the helpless female population from sexual predators, leads him to threaten and attack an innocent man rather than carefully questioning him first. Things get even worse when René meets the actual rapist. It should be common knowledge that, when someone has effectively been “taken out” and is no longer a threat, it’s cruel and excessive to continue to apply force. René kicks the subdued suspect…in the groin…twice. Clearly he has serious problems where his masculinity is concerned.

    Where does this leave Murder in Pigalle? Well, it well-represents its genre: a fun mystery novel to curl up with at night. I was able to enjoy the story because I just accepted the characters for who they were, flaws and all. While I don’t see myself becoming a fan of the series, I might be willing to pick up another volume sometime just because I feel like it.

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