Sunday, February 14, 2010

Long Tendrils of Threat: Cara Black's New Aimée Leduc -- MURDER IN THE PALAIS ROYAL

For the tenth time, Cara Black plunges us into the hectic life of computer security expert Aimée Leduc, in MURDER AT THE PALAIS ROYAL. And it's a wild ride, full of surprises, with damage to some gorgeous clothes, from a vintage Lanvin silk blouse to an Yves St Laurent top ... and most of all, to people that the spirited young detective admires and even loves.

While Aimée experiments with a promising new romance, terrible things are happening at the office of Leduc Detective. Her partner, René Friant, alerts her to a surprising electronic bank deposit into the firm's account, and later that same evening, someone shoots René, leaving him for dead on the office floor. All witnesses swear it was Aimée herself who'd murdered her partner! Since Aimée is, of course, quite sure that she was otherwise occupied at that time (oh my!), she leaps into the investigation, determined to clear herself from an increasingly convincing frame job.

Even her godfather doesn't believe in her innocence this time. What could René have done to provoke such an attack -- and who is masquerading as the Aimée to get the job done? There must be a trail leading from the security work they've been doing, no? But as Aimée's friends confirm for her, there's nobody who resents René. The conclusion sneaks up on her: This is about Aimée herself. Something she's tackled in the past has come back to bite her, with vengeance.

Readers of this vibrant series know that Black takes her security consultant into one "quarter" of Paris after another -- there are 20 of them -- and this time the source of evil lies in a coverup that Aimée hasn't dreamed exists. Its architect has an office in the Palais Royal, in a government office, where favors are traded and threats made on an everyday basis.

But Aimée Leduc's investment in friendships and family has roots that go even deeper. For instance, when she needs access to the grand museum of the Louvre, her name rings a bell with the guard:
"Leduc? I knew one. We called him Le Vieux, tall, thick moustache, broad shoulders."

And warm arms that held her when she'd been bitten by a dachshund in the park. Who took her for piano lessons; then for a hot chocolate afterward.

"My grand-pere."

The guard drew a breath. "Just this once. Don't ask me again."
Black's plotting is tight and tense, her scenes briskly knotted, and the movement of threat and escape like quicksilver across the pages. The best way to read this lively adventure is all at once, with a box of chocolates to one side. Leduc Detective may be a computer security firm on the surface, but Aimée's determination to save herself and her partner, if humanly possible, drives her to new extremes as a detective. And, incidentally, to fresh ways to analyze the potential for romance in her life.


[NOTE: This Cara Black volume is scheduled for March release, but it's already available for online orders. While you're picking up a copy, look for the other March release for Black from Soho Crime: the softcover edition of MURDER IN THE LATIN QUARTER. As always, there's no pressing need to read these in sequence -- but number nine does have an aspect that races across the scene once or twice in number ten, and it's clear that number eleven is going to lean on both of them for background. Such fun!]

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