Murder at la Villette (An Aimée Leduc Investigation)

Image of Murder at la Villette (An Aimée Leduc Investigation)
Release Date: 
March 5, 2024
Soho Crime
Reviewed by: 

“Aimée pulls up what’s always strengthened her in the past: her father’s advice about going with what you find, until it’s time to pivot. That takes her directly to the morgue.”

Most Cara Black fans will know her for the Aimée Leduc investigations, set in Paris and arriving in this 22nd title at the year 2002. Aimée is the single mom of an adorable toddler, Chloé, with a complicated life, running the detective agency that was her father’s, arguing with her toddler’s dad (with whom she’s no longer partnered), exploring a fresh romance, and periodically cutting across the trails of her aging godfather (still powerful in Parisian police and politics) and her recently reconnected mother (a spy who’s rarely in the neighborhood).

In Murder at La Villette, however, it’s clear that Black’s other series, World War II thrillers featuring Kate Rees, has greatly influenced her writing, especially in terms of plot and risk. This is a big plus for the Leduc series, bringing it fresh vigor and the page-turning intensity of sharp timelines and big stakes.

Though she’s undercover on an intense assignment, Aimée can’t resist slipping out at night to continue an argument with her ex, Melac. He wants custody of their bébé and it’s hard to dismiss the idyllic life he’s offering the toddler, out in the country, safe and coddled. Which would be better than the hectic circus of childcare and work emergencies that Aimée provides, right? Well, not for Aimée. She’s managing. And she’s ready to tell Melac off, once and for all.

Instead, someone with a dark and malicious sense of humor manages to attack her ex and frame Aimée for the murder. Suddenly she’s in hiding, which is a very hard set-up for trying to track who’s killed Melac. Apparently it’s someone from his (maybe even their) past, since the last thing she heard him say into her voicemail was “Aimée . . . I’ve just seen a ghost.”

Things get worse when her new beau, Bellan, closes her out, which she figures shows that Bellan is “scared and afraid for his own derriere.”

Black puts this investigator’s feelings up front:

“Part of her was searing in hurt. But the other part understood—Bellan had a lot to lose if he got involved: his children, his job . . . Yet he’d lose her, too. She summoned her courage. . . . Alone, on the run and worried for Chloé, she had to figure this out. Fix it. Do whatever she could before she got caught. Focus. Too much was at stake to sit spinning her wheels.”

So Aimée pulls up what’s always strengthened her in the past: her father’s advice about going with what you find, until it’s time to pivot. That takes her directly to the morgue, where fortunately she still has a friend willing to take a risk for her.

A special delight of Murder at La Villette is the connection this investigator forms with a woman who’s leading a group of “biker” criminals. Based on honorable behavior between them, this will provide allies who aren’t about to toss Aimée into the hands of law enforcement, and who’ll instead back her up, physically as needed, to pry open the conspiracy.

Newcomers to the series needn’t worry—Black is a pro at filling in enough background along the way. But those who’ve followed this detective for years will get a kick out of how the people in Aimée’s life change roles on her behalf and assist her exhausting efforts. It’s also fun to realize, from the teasing finale, that the series will continue.