Wednesday, June 20, 2007

My fourth book for Liz’s Summer Mystery Reading Challenge is Murder in Belleville, by Cara Black. This is the second in Black’s Aimee Leduc series, and is set in April, 1994.
Aimee is a Parisian young woman who co-owns a corporate security company with her dwarf partner, Rene, and who also moonlights as a private investigator. When Anais, an old friend and wife of an interior minister, sends her a desperate call for help from Belleville, an immigrants' quartier, Aimee responds, intending to confront Sylvie, her husband's mistress. When a car bomb fueled by Algerian plastique takes Sylvie's life, Anais begs Aimée to unravel the tangled threads that led to her death.
Aimée's investigations take her into the heart of the unrest surrounding the political status of illegal Algerian immigrants, or sans-papiers. The government has decided to enforce a decree to deport the sans-papiers, and Bernard Berge, a low ranking government official, who is also a pied-noir, or Algerian-born French citizen, is called upon to do the dirty work. Given the situation these days with the debate over how to best deal with the illegal immigrant situation in America, I found this particularly interesting.

The jam-packed plot is some times hard to follow. I also found the intermittent presence of Yves, Aimée's fickle, and possibly married, lover, distracting, as is the frequent (and untranslated) use of French words and phrases, but Black's Paris, at times grimly threatening, is also wondrously vibrant:

"She wondered how Sylvie/Eugénie fit into the melange that swelled the boulevard: the Tunisian Jewish bakery where a line formed while old women who ran the nearby hammam conversed with one and all from their curbside café tables, the occasional rollerblader weaving in and out of the crowd, the Asian men unloading garments from their sliding-door Renault vans, the Syrian butchers with their white coats stained bloody pink, the tall, ebony Senegalese man in a flowing white tunic, prayer shawl, and blue jogging shoes with a sport bag filled with date branches, a well-coiffed French matron tugging a wheeled shopping cart, a short, one-eyed Arabe man who hawked shopping bags hanging from his arms, and the watchful men in front of the Abou Bakr Mosque near the Métro."

I enjoyed this book, even without having visited Paris in person for nearly 20 years.


Blogger sage said...

I'm not much of a mystery person, but Algerians, Asians, Jews,Syrians Senegalese, French, Arabs... around the world without leaving Paris!

8:37 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home