In Cara Black’s “accomplished, absorbing debut” (Kirkus Reviews), PI Aimée Leduc must decrypt a digitized photo from the 1940s. But when Aimée visits the historic Jewish quarter of Paris to deliver the picture, she finds its intended recipient murdered—and with a swastika carved in her aged forehead.
©1999 Cara Black (P)2010 Recorded Books, LLC
"In order to understand the true motive behind the killing, Aimée must delve into history, confronting older residents of the quarter - who'd prefer she leave the past alone - and doing some undercover work. The suspense is high as she fraternizes dangerously with the enemy, even becoming briefly involved with an Aryan supremacist. Black knows Paris well, and in her first-rate debut she deftly combines fascinating anecdotes from the city's war years with classic images of the City of Lights." (Publishers Weekly)
“Literate prose, intricate plotting, and multifaceted and unusual characters mark this excellent first mystery. Strongly recommended.” (Library Journal)
I'm an avid listener. Audio books are a mini-vacation for me. They fill my "need to read" when I don't have time - which is most of the time. Great element of multi-tasking!
It's unusual to have a compelling story that is not very well told. A murder mystery in present day involving WWII and contemporary Nazis, the persecution of Parisian Jews in the Marais, and a reluctant detective who would rather be solving computer crimes, provides for a rich landscape in which to tell the tale. The author, however, must not think the reader too clever, as she reminds us of clues she has already given and re-identifies her characters, as well as providing unnecessary explanations of feelings behind bits of dialogue. She throws in a bit of French to remind us that we are in Paris, but ony chooses the words that most people would already know, leaving us with the feeling that these people are all bilingual. The narrator does not help the author's style, as her Parisian French accent is good, which makes for a jarring juxtaposition with the Standard American Dialect of the rest of the story. An interesting group of characters in a unique story are worth the listen, but it could have been more satisfyingly told.
When I ran a public library I would have put this in the "Young Adult" section (officially age 12-18). I would have been happy to see a girl age 12 to 15 check it out. It has geographical and historical information that would be informative. A reviewer (for another item in this series) complained about the narrator's slow speed. She goes slow in this one too. I think she wants to be sure a young adult can follow what is being said. For what it
is, this selection is not bad.
The story was well-developed. The heroine is a strong female lead and her partner overcomes a multitude of obstacles arising from his short stature. Interesting storyline. Somewhat dark in nature.
Love books! Classics and lighter fiction, mysteries (not too violent please :-). And selective non-fiction--whatever takes my fancy.
I have already read several reviews that say pretty much what I would say about this book. One person said that this might appropriately be placed in the "young adult" section in a library. I might have said that it read like a young adult's first efforts at writing a book.
It just was awkward. I had thought perhaps it was a translation from the french, but I checked, and no, this is an American author writing in English. So, if you can accept that this has something of the feel of not-quite-polished writing about it, and manage the discomfort of the narrator, who speaks so maddeningly slowly that you want to jump in and say the next word for her, we are left with the story.
I'm a sucker for Paris. So that pulls me in, in the first place. And the subject matter of a mystery that deals with the sad, lingering aftermath of the Nazi occupation is compelling.
I felt a bit frustrated with Aimee herself, since the author tried to portray her as the unwilling detective who really only wanted to find computers hackers and such, but then accepted this job involving people (that she so proclaimed herself against working with) on the strength of a man she said had known her father. She didn't even press him on how, or to see if she was walking into danger, etc. Thus, in my mind, a bit of a weak beginning.
But if you love Paris, and can accept some distracting things about the writing and narration, the story has interest and a good mystery. Although one might not believe it based on what I've just written, for those two reasons I will probably venture out and try another. And hope the writing gets smoother with experience.
While I found the story interesting and the setting irresistible, I lived in Paris for 3 years just before the time in the story so the places were very familiar, I couldn't get past the anachronism of the references to the computer uses by the main characters. In 1993 government and private concerns were only beginning to store files on computer databases that was stored on mainframe computers not accessible from outside their direct networks. The "internet" such as it was only existed for the military and some educational institutions. Even given that Aimee and her partner were "computer experts" most of the computer research and communications would not have been possible at that time. Laptops were only equipped with software for basic word processing, appointment calendar, telephone/address book, and calculator. Sorry but I did enjoy the story line but every time computer use came up, and it was crucial to the resolution of the plot, it made me crazy.
Look for the critical reviews first. I found this book incredibly bad, and listened to the end just to see how bad it could get. Many of the mysteries, spy novels, etc. require a suspension of disbelief, but this takes reality beyond anything I can remember reading.
Present with Aimee Leduc's investigation leads into the complex past and back to the complex present -- story well told and engrossing.
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