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Murder in the Palais Royal (Aimee Leduc Investigations, No. 10)
by Cara Black

Published: 2010-03-01
Hardcover : 304 pages
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Praise for Cara Black:The buzz is partly about her heroine's hip, next-generation, cutting-edge investigations and partly about Paris, a setting of unrivaled charm.Houston Chronicle

Will have you wondering if it's not too late to book that summer vacation to Paris you always wanted.USA ...

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Praise for Cara Black:The buzz is partly about her heroine's hip, next-generation, cutting-edge investigations and partly about Paris, a setting of unrivaled charm.Houston Chronicle

Will have you wondering if it's not too late to book that summer vacation to Paris you always wanted.USA Today

The trendy byways of Paris belong to Aimée Leduc, the clever young sleuth in a winning series by Cara Black, an American with an uncanny feel for the street culture of old Parisian neighborhoods."The New York Times Book Review

The Parisienne Kinsey Milhone.Los Angeles Times

One of the best heroines in crime fiction.Lee Child

Her partner, René, has been shot, and eyewitnesses have identified Aimée as the culprit. A mysterious deposit has been made to their firm's bank account, interesting the taxman in their affairs. Someone seems to be impersonating Aimée; someone wants revenge. Two murders ensue. How do they relate to the youth whom Aimée's testimony sent to jail in the very first Aimée Leduc investigation, Murder in the Marais.

Cara Black is the author of nine previous books in the best-selling Aimée Leduc series, all of which are available from the Soho Crime imprint. She lives in San Francisco with her husband and son and visits Paris frequently.

Editorial Review

No editorial review at this time.


Aimée Leduc smoothed her vintage Lanvin blue silk
blouse, a flea market find. She was determined, for once, to
play by the rules. The rules in this case were set forth in an Elle
article: “Now that you’ve met him, don’t blow it. • RULE 1:
Bad boy or not, he likes good food.” She hoped this was true of
Mathieu, media liaison for a fashion house.
Opening the balcony doors of her apartment to the twilight,
Aimée inhaled the crisp autumn air. Below, streetlights lining
the Ile Saint-Louis cast yellow slants of light over the Seine.
Fallen rose petals on the walnut dining table emitted a faint
scent. The slow melodic twang of Django Reinhardt’s guitar
sounded in her dining room. She lit the beeswax tapers on the
candelabra, blew out the match, watched the slow gray spiral
of smoke rise, and crossed her fingers.
Chloë’s voice came from the kitchen. “But how well do you
know him, Aimée?” Tall, with blunt-cut reddish-brown hair
and black-framed round owl-like glasses, Chloë had recently
sublet the upstairs apartment.
“Who really knows anyone, Chloë?” Aimée asked.
Chloë shot her a warning look. “Take it slow. Why rush?”
But when had she taken anything slowly? Mathieu ignited
a spark in her that she hadn’t felt in a long time.
Miles Davis, Aimée’s bichon frisé, pawed at his leash. “You’re
sweet to take him tonight, Chloë.”
“Don’t do anything I wouldn’t.” Chloë grinned before the
door closed behind her.
Aimée heard her footsteps down the hall. The doorbell
* * *
Mat h i e u ’ s d e e p - s e t e y e s gleamed at her over the
black trumpette mushroom fricassee drizzled with white peppercorns.
He tore out the nub of the ficelle, a thin baguette. “Eh
bien, you should have told me that you cook.”
She didn’t; she hoped to God she’d weighted down the
take-out cartons from Fauchon deep enough in the garbage.
“You’re quite the gourmet, Aimée. Impressive,” he said.
Mathieu was lean and muscular under his V-neck sweater. A
silver stud earring showed under his black curling hair as he
ran the back of his warm hand along her cheekbone. “What
else haven’t you told me?”
Told him? That tomorrow she was flying to New York to
find her brother, a younger brother she hadn’t known existed
until two weeks ago when she’d discovered ten-year-old letters
with a Manhattan return address. At least that gave her a
place to start.
It was a shame she’d connected with Mathieu on the eve of
her departure. But she’d figure that out later, if later happened.
Her phone rang. She ignored it until the voice of René, her
partner, boomed on the answering machine. “Aimée, care to
explain the hundred thousand francs making us richer this evening?
A payoff from an Eastern European arms dealer? Or did
you furnish the Colombian cartel with a safe bank account?”
Mathieu’s eyebrows rose. She grabbed the phone, explaining,
“My partner! A joker. Excuse me.”
She ran to the kitchen, checking the oven she never used
to see if the roasted rosemary chicken had warmed up. “Damn
embarrassing, René. Some joke? I’m not laughing."
“Me, neither,” René said. “Not that we couldn’t use the
money. Is there something you’re not telling me?”
“I won the lottery?” Had she even remembered to buy a
ticket this week?
“Lottery winnings arrive in nice big checks, Aimée.”
He sounded serious.
“I don’t understand, René.”
“No client owes us even half that much,” René said.
“You checked our overdue accounts?”
A snort came over the line. “Double-checked.”
Mathieu . . . and the rosemary chicken was burning.
“There’s got to be a bank error. A mistake.”
“Get over here, Aimée, and deal with this. I’m up to my
neck organizing the Nadillac investigation.” René exhaled.
“Their fee is legitimate money, remember?”
She racked her brain. No explanation for such a sizable
unexpected deposit came to mind.
“Bien sûr,” she said, reaching into the oven and burning her
hand. “Merde! I’ll get back to you soon.”
Another snort. “Hot date, eh?”
“In more ways than one, René.” But he’d hung up.
... view entire excerpt...

Discussion Questions

1. Gabrielle de la Pecheray, the aristocratic Ministry press attache’s job is damage control
and averting government scandals. This touches close to home for Gabrielle who has her
own dirty laundry: a father who was a Vichy collaborator during World War II. How
does Gabrielle change in the story? Does she come to terms with the past, and does
Olivier, her son, also caught in a scandal, change too?
2. The exclusive Palais Royal area is likened to a village in the center of Paris, a closed
community inhabited by Ministry officials and local shopkeepers. Do you sense the
village atmosphere? How does the community seem closed Aimée and other outsiders?
3. Clèmence, a young woman from Toulouse, struggles working in Paris as a waitress.
What are her different ways of coping with the men in her life and with her future? Does
your sympathy for her grow?
4. Aimée’s penchant for bad boys is always leading her into trouble, this time with a man
who turns out to be married. Does she meet her match in the police detective Melac from
Brigade Criminelle? Could you see a future for them?
5. The themes of loss and the past affect the characters in different ways. Gabrielle is
affected by her father’s shameful collaborationist past while Aimée is haunted by the loss
of her father in an explosion. Do you see a parallel? How is the impact of the past
different for each of them?

Notes From the Author to the Bookclub

Q&A with Cara Black

Q: This is the 10th book in the Aimée Leduc Investigation series. Did you know you'd write a whole series set in Paris when you wrote your first book?

A: Never in a million years. But Paris fascinates me, and the more I learn about it, the more I realize I don't know. Paris is composed of twenty arrondissements, or districts, each with its own flavor and distinct feel that I want to capture.

Q: You’re American, and you live in San Francisco. Why set your books in Paris?

A: I love off-the-beaten-track Paris, the side tourists rarely see, and I wanted to explore the darker side of the City of Light, to go beyond the beret and baguette stereotype and uncover the layers of history. My heroine, a private detective named Aimée Leduc, has a background in criminal work but focuses on computer security. She's got an edge, a contemporary view of Paris, a city flavored by the past.

Q: How do you research? Do you go to Paris? Do you speak French?

A: Research is the best part of being an author for me. I need to go to Paris. As I tell my husband, it's “work.” I visit Paris twice a year and am lucky to be able to stay with friends. My French—well, I can get by. I do research at the archives and libraries and interview police, musicians, and artists. I visit the district I'm writing about and get to know the people who live and work there: the cafe owners, the shop keepers. I join the local historical association. Over the years I've developed friendships with several female detectives and retired police officers whom I consult with when I’m writing a novel. It's important to get the details right, as my French contacts always tell me. I make a point of getting the geography of Paris—the streets, the monuments, the buildings—correct.

Q: What do you like to read?

A: I read nonfiction, especially biographies and historical works about the section of Paris I’m writing about at the time. But I love mysteries; I'm addicted. Any great book, whether mystery or literary novel, is something I want to read. I don't worry about genre. I just love a good book.

Q: Which authors do you feel have had the biggest influence on your writing?

A: So many. At the beginning, when I read P.D. James’s An Unsuitable Job for a Woman, I felt like my brain lit up. Here was a female character who was a detective, but she wasn't Nancy Drew. She was a character who felt real and vulnerable. And smart. My father was a big John le Carre fan, and he hooked me on the Smiley series. Phillip Kerr, who wrote Berlin Noir, a trilogy of his first three Bernie Gunther novels set in Berlin and Germany, inspired me to take a chance on writing about a foreign setting.

Q: When people say they “don’t read mysteries,” what do you think they mean, and why do you think they say this?

A: That happens often. People tell me, “I don't read mysteries, but your Paris setting intrigued me, and I love France...." I can only guess, but perhaps they think of mysteries as genre or pulp novels. Maybe this comes from the stigma of cheap sensationalistic paperbacks with lurid covers and taglines like “He killed by night.” Or they think of drawing room puzzles set in English villages. But the mystery genre has gone beyond that. Many mystery and crime novels deal with important contemporary issues; crimes are set against the backdrop of today's realities. Maybe that's why they're so compelling—they’re about the search for reasons behind random violence, hate crimes, prejudice and trying to make sense of them. They try to find some sort of resolution, which we often don’t find in real life. Look at Lush Life by Richard Price. That's categorized as a crime novel, but it's so much more.

Q: The series takes place in the ‘90s. What made you set the series during that period? Do you ever find it difficult to stay accurate while writing about the recent past?

A: My books take place in the mid-1990s. It's a period when France was joining the European Union. Things were changing, and secrets from the past about the German Occupation surfaced. French society began to come to terms with the legacy of World War II and colonialism in Indochina and North Africa. I spent a lot of time in Paris during this period, and wanted to write about what I saw. No one else that I knew of was writing about this particular period. I work very hard to use real events and details of the recent past to evoke the atmosphere I experienced. I've got the 1995 Paris telephone book (white and yellow pages—I had to use a whole suitcase to bring them home). Often I consult the Stanford University archives. They keep the newspaper Le Monde on microfiche, so I can look up the weather in Paris, what was on sale, and the movies in the theater on a particular day.

Q: Why did you choose the Palais Royal as the setting for this latest book?

A: I've wanted to write about the Palais Royal for a long time. I love this quiet oasis where Colette the famous writer lived, the place she called her “village.” The whole quartier is rich with history. It's across from the Louvre, but it feels completely tucked away. It’s amazing to me that it's in the center of Paris, but so many people miss it. The part I love is the garden surrounded by the Palais Royal arcades. It’s very quiet, and it seems exclusive and hidden in a way. It has a decayed aristocratic feel, but the pulse of Paris beats in the Comedie Francaise, the national theater, the Ministry of Culture, and the famous restaurant le Grand Vefour, which borders this garden. I've also watched Charade, the 1963 film version with Audrey Hepburn and Cary Grant, countless times, and somehow I felt Aimée needed to be under those shadowy collonades in something Givenchy-esque like Audrey.So Murder in the Palais Royal takes place in October 1997, two months after Princess Diana's death in Paris. Aimée finds herself pulled into events that link back to the murder she investigated in my first book, Murder in the Marais. She's on a journey, in one way, a very personal one concerning her own past that parallels her investigation. And since the Palais Royal figured in Aimée's childhood, it seemed the perfect place for the murder to occur.

Note from the author to book clubs:

Dear Readers,

Remember the climax in the film Charade under the shadowed arcades of the Palais Royal in Paris? Imagine my detective Aimée Leduc under those same arcades. Murder in the Palais Royal is a contemporary look at the darker side of the city of light with Aimée caught in a whirlwind of intrigue after her partner René is shot.

Here’s what reviewers have had to say about the Aimée Leduc series:

"The buzz is partly about her heroine's hip, next-generation, cutting-edge investigations and partly about Paris, a setting of unrivaled charm."—Houston Chronicle

"The trendy byways of Paris belong to Aimée Leduc, the clever young sleuth in a winning series."—The New York Times Book Review

Feel free to email me at [email protected]. I'd be delighted to call in to your next book meeting to talk with you about Murder in the Palais Royal.


Cara Black

Book Club Recommendations

Member Reviews

Overall rating:
  "Mystery that is a fun easy read"by terry b. (see profile) 07/21/10

Detective Aimee Leduc is based in Paris and is about to leave to look for a long lost brother when an attempted murder takes place. I enjoyed the descriptions of Paris. There isn't a lot to this book,... (read more)

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