When his nephew is murdered while carrying evidence of a police money laundering operation, a Parisian lawyer turns for help to Aimée Leduc, who dreads learning if her father was murdered by the syndicate or part of it.
Cara Black is the author of eighteen books in the New York Times bestselling Aimée Leduc series. She has received multiple nominations for the Anthony and Macavity Awards, and her books have been translated into German, Norwegian, Japanese, French, Spanish, Italian, and Hebrew. She lives in San Francisco with her husband and son and visits Paris frequently.
The unanswered questions that haunt Parisian PI Aimée Leduc's life-the circumstances behind her father's murder and her mother's disappearance-keep resurfacing, little bits of the puzzle slotting into place while the full picture remains incomplete. So it is again in this eighteenth entry in Black's beloved series, as Aimée is persuaded by a lawyer to hunt for a missing notebook given to him by a dying client. The notebook, Aimée learns, contains records of how a notorious syndicate of dirty cops laundered money. Finding the notebook might be a mixed blessing for Aimée: her father's name may appear in it as one of the dirty cops on the take, but it could also lead Aimée to his killers. As usual in this series, Aimée's search for answers prompts a helter-skelter, against-the-clock tour of the city's streets, this time mainly in the thirteenth arrondissement, where the trail leads her both to the district's Vietnamese neighborhood and to the remnants of the once-flourishing tapestry industry, both providing tantalizing subplots. For longtime Aimée fans-and are there any other kind, really?-this episode is particularly poignant, both for the backstory it reveals and what it suggests about the future. Copyright 2018 Booklist Reviews.
Aimée Leduc (Murder in Saint-Germain, 2017, etc.) chases across Paris' low-rent district in search of a World War II-era dossier. Attorney Éric Besson can't believe there might be anything of value in the notebook Holocaust survivor Léo Solomon brings him wrapped in old twine. But the aging accountant insists the document must be presented to la Procureur de la République that very day. To pacify the old coot, Besson gives the packet to his sister's kid Marcus, who serves as his office boy, for delivery. But Besson's nephew delays his mission to spend a couple of hours at a hotel with his girlfriend, Karine. A couple of thugs break in and cut his date short, and by the time Marcus' body is discovered, Karine and the diary are nowhere to be found. Though Besson doesn't want to spend any more effort on Solomon, his diary, or even finding Marcus' killer, the case is red meat to Aimée. She thrives on redressing old wrongs. And as she pokes into the first few layers of the puzzle, she begins to suspect that Solomon's diary may include incriminating evidence against members of "the Hand," a part-political, part-criminal organization that may have been complicit in her father's death. Her partner in Leduc Detectives René Friant, warns her that the case will put both Aimée and her 10-month-old daughter in the cross hairs of some very bad people. Of course Aimée ignores René, and of course she and Chloé end up running for their lives. How many times will readers watch Aimée try desperately to shield her bébé from the consequences of her off-the books investigations? On ne sait jamais. Like her earlier entries, Black's latest is refreshingly free from the focus on French food culture that marks provincial mysteries and gratifyingly full of local Parisian color. But a little more variation in the detection menu would be welcome. Copyright Kirkus 2018 Kirkus/BPI Communications. All rights reserved.
Paris • Early September 1999 • Friday
Pale afternoon light filtered into Éric Besson’s wood-paneled office as Monsieur Solomon untied the twine that bound together a bulging old notebook.
“We were prisoners together in a POW camp,” Solomon said, wheezing, as the lawyer took hurried notes. “Stalag III-C, east of Berlin. Pierre saved my life.” Another wheeze. “You understand why I did what I did.”
Besson capped his pen. The effort of talking had cost Monsieur Solomon, who was in his eighties, and he reached for his oxygen mask. After several labored inhales, he grabbed Besson’s arm with a crab-claw grip. “But Pierre’s gone now,” Solomon said. “It’s all written in there: my confession, the amounts, dates. Years of entries.”
Besson reached across his desk to take the notebook from the old man’s shaking hands. He opened the well-worn volume to see columns of names and numbers, an accountant’s tiny, perfect handwriting. He turned page after page, his eyes catching on names and franc amounts as it gradually dawned on him what he must be looking at.
Monsieur Solomon’s rheumy brown eyes bored into the lawyer. “I’m dying. Get this to the right person.”
Besson reached for his briefcase. “Tomorrow, first thing, I promise.”
“Non, you must do it now.”
A real pain, the old geezer. He’d waited fifty years to do the right thing, and now he couldn’t wait one more day. “Alors, I’ll keep your notebook in my safe. You don’t have to worry—”
“Now,” Monsieur Solomon interrupted. “This can’t wait. I won’t leave until you send a note to la Procureure de la République.”
The old coot had barged into Éric Besson’s office without an appointment—as well as anyone could barge with an oxygen machine. “My secretary’s left already. I literally should be in court right now . . .”
Monsieur Solomon pointed a knobby arthritic finger toward the adjoining room. “Get that boy there, your helper. You trust him?”
“He’s family, but—”
The old man stomped his shriveled leg. “If you can’t trust family, then who? Send him.”
Another bout of wheezing.
Worried that the old man would be carried out of his office on a stretcher—or worse, in a box—Besson stepped into the adjoining office, where Marcus was assembling a new chair. Marcus was Éric’s sister’s boy, a gangling, baby-faced eighteen-year-old with curly hair and the beginnings of a beard.
“Here’s another job for you, Marcus,” Besson said. “I need you to run this to la Proc.”
“But I’ve got plans with Karine. A date.”
Besson reached in his pocket for a wad of francs. “Do this, okay?”
Marcus glanced at his cell phone. “How long will it take?”
“Back and forth in a taxi, twenty minutes, that’s all.”
Besson shoved the old man’s twine-bound notebook, its handwritten pages spilling out, into a plastic Monoprix shopping bag, knotted the plastic handles together, and zipped the sack into Marcus’s backpack. “Go right away.”
“Why can’t it be tomorrow?”
Besson lowered his voice to a whisper. “Please, it’s important, Marcus.”
“Who is this old fart?”
“A friend of my mother’s. Long story.” The door buzzer sounded. Besson’s colleague had arrived to pick him up for court in Meudon. “Marcus, just get this to la Proc. Tell her I sent you. Don’t talk to anyone else. Don’t meet anyone on the way except a taxi driver at the stand on the corner. Comprends?”
Marcus, perspiring, loosened his collar as he shut his uncle’s door and scanned Boulevard Arago. In the humid afternoon, a woman walked her schnauzer; a car radio blared news into the velvet air. No taxi at the stand.
Et voilà, Marcus would pocket the taxi fare and catch the bus. His uncle would never know. Marcus turned onto narrow rue Pascal and hurried through the dim tunnel created by the street that passed above it a block later. The tunnel echoed with his footsteps and with the rumbling of the cars passing overhead. The old notebook heavy in his backpack, he headed up the stairs to Boulevard de Port-Royal. Marcus was almost at the bus stop. He savored the thought of the money in his pocket.
His cell phone vibrated. His uncle. He ignored it.
Marcus scanned the sidewalk. Karine was standing near the bus stop and waved. Another call from his uncle. He ignored this one, too.
“You’re late.” A big pout on her red lips. He eyed her lace camisole top and hip-hugging jeans. “My friend’s letting us use her place, remember?”
Marcus pulled her close. “We’re going to a hotel. No attic room with bedbugs in the mattress today.”
Karine shook her head. “On your allowance?”
He glanced at the time. “I’ve got to take care of a quick job first.”
Karine’s mascaraed eyes gleamed. “Why wait?”
What was the rush for the old fart—would an hour matter?
“You’re right. Meet me at the hotel on Cinq Diamants. Let me stash this first.”
Karine’s perfume filled the hotel room. Marcus laughed as he came up from under the duvet damp with their sweat. His laugh was cut short as a huge male arm caught him in a choke hold from behind. He gasped for air, tried to grab at the arm around his neck, but his wrists were yanked behind him, then flex-cuffed so tight the plastic cut his flesh. He was dragged off the bed and dropped facedown on the carpet.
The contents of his backpack rained down on his naked back. “Where is it?” a voice said.
Fear paralyzed him. He couldn’t breathe.
A kick to his ribs. Then another. “Where did you put it? Tell me or I’ll keep it up.”
“I don’t . . . know . . .”
“Of course you do. Where’d you hide it?”
All this over a stupid old notebook? But he couldn’t fail his uncle. Maybe he could talk his way out of this, get this animal to untie him and then . . . what, jump out the window? What about Karine? “Let me up . . . and I’ll . . .”
He coughed into the beige rug, his mouth furred from inhaling the dust and pilling. The flex-cuffs, slick with his blood, bit into his wrists like wire.
Karine was screaming . . . or was that him?
He couldn’t see anything but beige and then the blindfold. His body was jerked up and slapped across the desk, the impact nearly snapping his spinal cord.
“I’ll ask again. Where is it?”
“What do you want?” Marcus asked.
“Cut to the chase, kid. Then your fingernails will stay on . . .”