The act of reading ... begins on a flat surface, counter or page, and then gets stirred and chopped and blended until what we make, in the end, is a dish, or story, all our own.
— Adam Gopnik
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July 4, 2010

Paris in July: Murder in the Palais Royal

While I was wondering what I could read for Paris in July, I came across this mystery, the tenth in a series featuring Aimee Leduc. a private investigator living and working in Paris, on the library's new book shelves. I'm hoping to read something a little more literary for this event, but in the meantime, I love series mysteries, and I had only read one in this series before.

While I was reading, I was trying to remember whether I visited the Palais Royal when I went to Paris. I don't think so...but as I read I enjoyed recognizing many of the other places where the story leads.

Moisture blurred the air, settling on the gold-spike-tipped fence and misting the double row of lime trees guarding the village-like enclave. Once the residence of Cardinal Richelieu and the duc d'Orleans, in the nineteenth century the Palais Royal had welcome commerce under the arcades, with the gambling clubs and courtesans. Napoleon had strolled, wooing Josephine in the garden, and the cafes had been meeting places of the Revolutionaries. How many scenes has she read in Balzac, Zola and de Maupassant set here?

The story is centered there because what Aimee is investigating -- the apparent  suicide of Nicholas Evry, a man she helped put in prison after the torching of a synagogue in the Marais, and a coincidental (or connected?) threat against her partner and her agency -- involves Gabrielle de la Pechary, a high-powered PR officer at the Ministry of Culture (headquartered there), her son Olivier, and her husband Roland, who is about to be invested as a government minister, as well as Clemence, a waitress in a bistro in the Palais Royal arcade, who was Evry's lover and is now blackmailing the de la Pecharys over Olivier's involvement in the crime.

As mysteries go, this one was well-plotted and suspenseful (one of the guilty parties was easy to identify, the other was a surprise). The characters aren't deeply drawn, but there are story lines that would be interesting to follow through the series. For me, the real enjoyment came from all the details about Paris:  the cleaning ladies who rollerblade through underground passageways to get their work done faster, government offices with crumbling plasterwork and chandeliers, and Aimee being unsentimental about living in a 17th century building with temperamental heating, wearing vintage clothing ('She cursed herself or not waterproofing her Valentinos'), and worrying about whether she has buried the containers from Fauchon deeply enough in the trash when she pretends to cook dinner for a new lover. The narrator also gives little snippets about Parisian architecture, literature and history. 

Faint light emanated from Le Grand Vefour, the Michelin-starred restaurant, where Colette had kept a regular table. But ahead of her in the north corner lay crumbling, soot-stained columns, a forlorn, shabby elegance.

The uneasiness filled her. Was she walking into a trap?
I would go back and read more of the books in this series, if only for the pleasure of reading about Paris. The author, Cara Black, has a website (here) with some tours of Paris that were fun to watch.

I have some ideas for more Paris in July reading and recipes, but I also have a huge stack of other library books beckoning to me. There's a biography of Jane Austen to finish, and I've also started reading Corduroy Mansions, by Alexander McCall Smith (only to find out that there was a serialized sequel that I also missed!), plus a few (!) others. So I may not be back in Paris for a week or so. A bientot!


Sabrina said...

Nice review. Sounds intriguing to me.

Frances said...

Sounds like a good summer read especially for those depictions of Paris as you mention. Might look for this in the library too. I also have a copy of Corduroy Mansions on the summer stack so we may overlap again.

El said...

Sounds like a good book. Great description. And thanks for the tip on the Historic NE property. I'll check it out!

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