After Nancy Drew mysteries in elementary school days, mystery novels kind of took a backseat from my reading list. But mix mystery with something French, and I find it a worthy page-turner at this age. Aimée Leduc, the ultra-chic and ruthless Parisienne and investigator, has an entire series of novels written by multi-awarded Cara Black. I had the privilege of owning this book with the help of my literary angel who I fondly call Jestercat.
The novel paints the ominous but riveting side of Paris streets and culture. I kind of sense, from a reader’s perspective, that the manner of writing this novel is quite hurried. It’s as if there is little room to linger, but much leg room for action.
Somewhere in the middle, I had a vague idea on who the killer was. This is not the writing style that I’d be inclined to worship (Kundera still owns that title for me, hands down) or laud like a senseless fangirl. But I strongly admire how the author was able to paint the sociopolitical backdrop well with the main character’s personal struggles.
Of course, it must be that need to mesh the inner and outer world that made the introspective bits a bit more hurried than the in-depth and introspective novels I’ve gotten accustomed to reading these days. In Black’s efforts to make it super grounded with sociopolitical issues in France, it kind of compromised the internal dialogue needed to provide a thought-provoking dimension to her characters. In some parts of the book, I am hitting a cardboard character. In others, there are stuff that can be unearthed from beneath the surface. It was not consistent, but I have a feeling that it was purposefully designed that way.
Probably if I managed to snag the first books of the Aimée Leduc I’d have a slightly different perspective. But I’d like to treat Murder in the Rue de Paradis as an individual book worthy of its own merits. It’s amazing how it can still stand alone even if I didn’t get to read the Cara Black series in its entirety.
The cover was immaculately haunting with it’s black and white photo of a corner building in Paris, the supposed venue of the mysterious murder of Leduc’s handsome lover. I didn’t notice how the whole thing turned from a personal struggle into a political one, but that’s one jolting quality I appreciated with Black’s style and pacing in this book.
It’s different from my usual reading fare. But I like it that way, because it opened up new ideas and perspectives that I wouldn’t have thought to be possible in a mystery novel like this.