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by Cara Black
Soho, March 2011
288 pages
ISBN: 1569478821

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This is the 11th book featuring Cara Black's private detective Aimée Leduc, each of which is set in a particular district of Paris. This time we follow Aimée into the bourgeois residential area of Passy in the XVIe arrondissement. Formerly a village, it was annexed to the greater city in 1860. Her godfather and mentor, police commissaire Morbier, sends her to his girlfriend Xavierre d'Eslay's house in Passy for her daughter Irati's engagement party as he is called away on special assignment to Lyon. He is worried about Xavierre who is not answering her phone. Aimée arrives late to find that the guests have left but she has a very brief meeting with an agitated Xavierre who leaves her to attend to a phone call. Aimée and her partner Rene are escorted out but Aimée senses trouble and ducks back through the garden where she finds Xavierre strangled with her own scarf. A Mercedes speeds away from the scene and the mystery unfolds.

The police take over and are not interested in the speeding car or in anything else Aimée has to say. They have found their evidence for what they soon label a crime of passion. Aimée is alarmed when she finds out that their evidence implicates Morbier as Xavierre's murderer The commissaire has made enemies within the police force who are delighted to hang this crime on him so it is up to Aimée to prove him innocent. Morbier is so depressed at the loss of his great love that he offers Aimée no help for his defense and admits he had been in the garden earlier in the evening.

In each of her novels Black uses a subplot of current political interest. This time it is the Basque connection and the ETA. Aimée discovers that Xavierre had connections to the independence movement in her youth although apparently is no longer a sympathizer especially with its violent methods. Xavierre is still friends with Agustino, a painter and sculptor who was a former associate in the movement. Aimée's electronic survey methods lead her to Agustino's studio. He too proves uncooperative but the more Aimée digs, the more the Basque implications in this crime become evident.

As with all the books in this series, the details of Parisian life, the clothes Aimée wears, the food (Gateau Basque is to be recommended), information conveyed about the Paris district, (Balzac's house/museum is visited), hold the reader's attention. However, I found the whole somewhat formulaic. There is the obligatory and problematic sexual encounter, the interesting, different (in this case dwarf) partner in her agency, the pals she uses to get her information but otherwise the book neglects, the antagonism with the police and special anti-terrorist units in favour of daring solo feats The latter finally lead us to an ending flurry of violence. So if you love Paris, read on but Black may have trouble keeping her readership through the next nine districts. She has promised to cover all twenty in Paris!

§ Ann Pearson is a photographer and retired college Humanities teacher who lives in Montreal

Reviewed by Ann Pearson, February 2011

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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