Stolen Nazi gold figures prominently in this murder mystery.

I’ve read a lot of detective fiction. Hundreds of novels, for sure. Maybe thousands. And most of those books have been in series by a much smaller number of authors. My experience over the years has been that an author’s efforts late in a series are all too frequently disappointing. Sometimes, lazily written. Sometimes, sloppily plotted. Other times, simply boring. But that’s not the case with the latest entry in Cara Black’s superb series of murder mysteries featuring the brilliant French-American detective, Aimée Leduc. In Murder on the Quai, Black takes us back to 1989, when Aimée was a nineteen-year-old first-year pre-med student, to lay out the backstory to the series. Stolen Nazi gold figures prominently in the story.

The makings of a detective

Aimée is struggling against the viciously competitive and corrupt system at the medical school when she receives a call from her father asking her to come to his office. The elder Leduc, a former policeman, is the sole proprietor of Leduc Detective, where he specializes in locating lost persons. He is about to catch an overnight train to Berlin on one such case and asks Aimée to fill in for an hour for his secretary, who is ill.


Murder on the Quai (Aimee Leduc #16) by Cara Black @@@@@ (5 out of 5)


Then a frantic woman shows up asking his assistance in solving the murder of her father who had been killed days earlier, execution-style, on the Quai. Though her father declines to take on the case and rushes off to board his train, Aimée rashly jumps at the chance to help the woman. Within short order, as Aimée follows up the single clue the woman has given her, she quickly finds herself in over her head. The case, it turns out, involves not just a great deal of money but the fearsome Corsican mob as well.

Meanwhile, we learn that the roots of the case lie far back in history. In 1942, in a village on the border between Occupied France and “free” (Vichy) France, a truck laden with Nazi gold goes astray. Nearby villagers kill the German soldiers manning the truck and make off with the gold, triggering a long succession of murders that echo through the decades. Somehow, the execution-style murder Aimée has set out to solve is connected with these historical circumstances.

The backstory, at last

The Aimée Leduc series also features her sidekick, René Friant, a brilliant computer hacker who is what Black describes as “a handsome dwarf.” René is, conveniently, a black belt in judo. In Murder on the Quai, we learn the circumstances in which Aimée meets him and their partnership begins. We also meet Inspector Morbier of the Sureté, Aimée’s overly protective godfather, her father’s former partner. And we learn more about the long-ago disappearance of Aimée’s mother. As Aimée learns belatedly, her father has rushed off to Berlin not on a case but to protect his wife, whom he believes still to be alive.

Like many of its predecessors in the series, Murder on the Quai is rooted in the violence of World War II. As Aimée’s investigation proceeds, flashbacks return us to those days when the villagers’ original sin set the stage for the murder on the Quai. The constant shift from 1989 to 1942 and back again gradually reveals the dimensions of the crime and its sad consequences. Murder on the Quai is one of Black’s best.

About the author

Cara Black, the bestselling author of the sixteen novels in the Aimée Leduc series, has also worked as a preschool teacher and as director of a preschool. She lives in San Francisco.

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