Cover image of "Murder in Clichy," a novel written by Cara Black

Aimee Leduc, half-American, half-French, daughter of a Paris policeman, runs the Leduc Detective Agency with her partner Rene Friant, a genius computer hacker who is a “handsome dwarf.” Though the agency purports to work only on computer security for corporations and turns away more traditional detective work, Aimee and Rene somehow manage to find themselves mixed up in devilishly complex investigations that involve skullduggery and violence of a high order. In the process, they face near-death experiences at the hands of the malefactors they’re pursuing. With alarming regularity. As we see again in this novel written by Cara Black.

A flawed novel

Those all-too-frequent near-death experiences are only one of the problems I have with the Aimee Leduc series, of which Murder in Clichy is the fifth. I’m also troubled by the clumsy dialogue that appears throughout the book. Again, and again, and again, characters in conversation address others by name — at the beginning of what seems like every other remark. Naturally, in the course of a typical conversation between friends, you or I might call the other by name to get attention, to convey disapproval, or to plead for one thing or another. But to start every other snatch of dialogue with the other’s name? No. That doesn’t happen — except in fiction, where the author hasn’t found some more artful way to convey to the reader who’s speaking to whom. As an editor, this grates on me. A lot.

Murder in Clichy (Aimee Leduc #5) by Cara Black ★★★☆☆

It’s not all bad

The great strength in Murder in Clichy — like that in its four predecessors — is the story behind the story: the historical facts on which the plot hangs. In this book, it’s the fascinating Cao Dai sect, a monotheistic Vietnamese religion that borrows elements from Buddhism, Taoism, and other belief systems and venerates a long list of familiar figures, including Gautama Buddha, Jesus Christ, Muhammad, Moses, Lenin, and Victor Hugo. Yes, Lenin and Victor Hugo. And others. Many others. (I did say fascinating, didn’t I?)

Of course, if you’re a Francophile and love Paris and everything Parisian, you’ll find other rewards in the Aimee Leduc series. These novels reek of detail about the city, each one set in a different neighborhood. But I’m no Francophile, and I have no fond memories of my brief stopovers in Paris.

About the author

Cara Black is a bestselling mystery writer who lives in San Francisco. To date, she has written 14 novels in the Aimee Leduc series.

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