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Originally published Friday, February 28, 2014 at 6:15 AM

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‘Murder in Pigalle’: Aimée Leduc back on the case

Cara Black returns with “Murder in Pigalle,” her 14th Aimée Leduc mystery, as the private detective attempts to help a cafe owner whose daughter has disappeared. Black appears this week at several locations in the Seattle area.


Special to The Seattle Times

Author appearances

Cara Black

The author of “Murder in Pigalle” will appear at these area locations:

• At 7 p.m. Monday, March 3, at Third Place Books, 17171 Bothell Way N.E., Lake Forest Park, in partnership with Alliance Française de Seattle; free (206-366-3333 or thirdplacebooks.com).

• She will sign books at noon Tuesday, March 4, at Seattle Mystery Bookshop, 117 Cherry St., Seattle; free (206-587-5737 or seattlemystery.com).

• At 3 p.m. March 4 at Wide World Books & Maps, 4411 Wallingford Ave. N., Seattle; free (888-534-3453 or wideworldtravelstore.com).

• At 7 p.m. March 4 at the Kirkland Public Library, 308 Kirkland Ave., Kirkland; free (425-822-2459 or www.kcls.org).

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Parisian private detective Aimée Leduc is back — she of the snappy Vespa scooter and excellent fashion sense, not to mention the ability to drink any other espresso fanatic under the table.

Leduc’s firm specializes in computer security, but she frequently finds other kinds of trouble. Each of these problematic adventures takes her to a different neighborhood of Paris — a city that her creator, San Francisco writer Cara Black, clearly loves.

The detective’s 14th outing, set during the steamy summer of 1998, is “Murder in Pigalle” (Soho, 320 pp., $27.95).

Leduc’s got problems. Good news: She’s pregnant (the father is her on-and-off lover, a bad-boy cop). Bad news: She can’t drink wine, and it’s getting physically harder to get around town.

In addition, her dealings with the Parisian police remain tricky. She has adversaries within the department, but also allies (like the pathologist who provides information in return for baby-sitting services).

Another major problem is money. Leduc’s business partner René Friant (a dwarf, though that’s not particularly relevant here) warns her that the agency’s finances, never robust, are in especially bad shape.

But accumulating money is never a high priority for Leduc. So when the owner of a favorite cafe needs help, Leduc’s right there, pro bono.

A rapist is terrorizing the famously raunchy Quartier Pigalle, stalking teenage girls and attacking them in their own houses. (Note: This book’s violence rating is pretty low. The worst of the savagery takes place off-screen.)

The assaults are horrifying enough, but one of the girls is fatally injured — and then the cafe owner’s daughter Zazie disappears. When it appears that the police are dragging their heels in finding her, Leduc takes charge.

Meanwhile, a parallel story unspools and eventually intersects with the main plotline. Zacharié, a felon, is desperate to regain custody of his daughter from his mentally unstable ex-wife. He’s also, reluctantly, part of a team of criminals planning a big heist. But when he tries to bow out of the plan, the others threaten his daughter’s safety and force him to stay.

The Leduc series might not as be deeply atmospheric as some crime fiction set in Paris (Alan Furst’s historical espionage comes to mind). But Leduc is a refreshing and entertaining guide to Parisian neighborhoods and cultures, especially those that well-established tourist routes typically pass by. Let’s hope she never runs out of districts to scoot around in.

Adam Woog’s column on crime and mystery fiction appears on the second Sunday of the month in The Seattle Times.



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