San Francisco-based mystery writer Cara Black‘s Paris-based heroine is half French, half American. It is only fitting, since Cara seems to perpetually have a foot in both cities.
Cara was just in Chicago, on tour to promote the eighth book in her acclaimed mystery series set in Paris, Murder in the Murder in the Rue de Paradis [An Aimee Leduc Investigation]. We’ve known her for years now and have attended a number of her readings, but she still manages to surprise us with at least one new story about her lifelong connection to the City of Light. This visit was no exception.
As a teenager, she fell in love with the writings of Russian born, Paris-based writer Romain Gary. She fell in love the way only a teenager can, actually writing a letter to the author in care of his publisher.
Gary wrote her back. And as any [platonically] lovestruck teenager would, she took his home return address written on the back of the envelope as a personal invitation. So at age 18, on a backpacking trip around Europe, she found herself somewhat timidly ringing his doorbell.
He answered. She blurted. He closed the door. But just as she was about to leave, the door opened again and Gary appeared with his jacket. He walked her down to his corner café, where an espresso and a cigar were already waiting for him on the bar. When the bartender glanced at Cara, Gary simply said, “She’ll have the same.” So it was this intrepid 18-year-old was introduced to Romain Gary, espresso and cigars all in the course of one afternoon in Paris.
That is the level of intimacy her novels achieve with the city. Beginning with her first, Murder in the Marais, she has concentrated on a single neighborhood or arrondissement with each book. [Paris is divided into 20 arrondissements—we Cara fans are hoping that means there are another dozen adventures to come for Aimée and her dwarf business partner René.] Cara drills deep in her research for her books. She walks the neighborhoods, talks to shop owners and concierges and eavesdrops on conversations, sometimes inserting herself into them and being led on adventures by her new friends. And yes, I’m talking about the author here, not her sleuth.
She also makes friends. In the police department, the morgue, among retired inspectors… all in an effort to get it right. And get it right she does. So much so that one of her books, Murder in the Sentier, has just been published in French! This would be akin to a French writer setting a novel in New York, for instance [as a native, not a visitor], and nailing the mood, the details, the soul of the city so completely that an American publisher would think there was an audience for it here.
The Aimée Leduc Investigation series. Cara’s protagonist runs a computer security firm. She has spiked hair [they’re set in the ’90s], a Bichon Frisé named Miles Davis and a taste for spike heels and bad boys. [Cara’s eyes always light up when she says this last part.] Although her business is kind of dry and techy, the adventures she gets drawn into are almost never business related or for paying clients—much to the chagrin of partner René. They are, however, invariably exciting.
The books each stand alone, but are best read in order. There’s an underlying story arc involving the mysterious disappearance of Aimée’s mother when she was just a girl. With each book, Aimée discovers a little more about her, but feels she knows even less. Even Cara doesn’t know how this will resolve itself.
So collect the whole set. You’ll find the complete list at Cara’s website. You can even order books through her husband Jun’s San Francisco bookstore. You’ll also find a link to her Paris blog there. No photos yet, but quick stories and links to news stories. I’ll work on her regarding photos.