Cara Black's Aimée Leduc Investigations feature a French-American private eye who solves crimes oriented in a specific Paris neighborhood. She's up to 15, but I just finished number three: Murder in the Sentier. Published more than 10 years ago and set even further back in time (1994), Aimée is distracted (as she always is) from her actual employment analyzing business security issues using the high tech of the day by a phone call from Jutta Hald who said she knew Aimée's long-lost mother, when they shared a prison cell.
What follows is a wild ride (seemingly the only way that Aimée operates) that takes Aimée back to the 1970s when Europe was roiled by home-grown terrorists like the Baader-Meinhof Gang (here called Haader-Rofmein). As Aimée digs deeper into the past, the bodies pile up in the present. But Aimée can't forget the mother who left her when she was eight years old and believes that the remaining members of Action-Réaction can tell her what happened.
And I'm afraid that's all I can remember. I have a note that says Modigliani (pretty useless after three months!) which I think means that a long-lost artwork by Amedeo Modigliani might have been lifted by Action-Réaction when they kidnapped a wealthy German businessman. And that artwork might be the key to the contemporary mystery.
The jury's still out for me regarding Aimée Leduc. She annoys me rather than intrigues. Her approach to everything is to wade in without the facts and yet somehow she keeps her faltering business in the black. She's kind of a bad friend, to her business partner René and others. And she occasionally seems a little superhuman. For instance, what I do remember in this book is Aimée fleeing the police after she finds Jutta Hald's dead body by ducking into a tattoo parlor and getting a tattoo!! Really? Then there's the running around she does in a skintight catsuit and stilettos. I believe a wildly colored wig was also involved. This seems a bit much to me.
Carine Montbertrand narrates the novel (and the series). She has French bonafides (like Aimée she has an American mother and a French father) and she pronounces all the French places and names with authenticity. Aimée = A (long vowel sound)-may. Sentier = SOHN-tee-a (again with the long a). She handles the German accents of Jutta Hald (and another character) with confidence. I'm glad she chose to have all the French speakers not speak with French accents (I find this really distracting) except when they are saying names.
The pronunciation of Montbertrand's own last name (her first is just as it appears) is missing the first t and the last d, i.e., MON-bear-trawn, and -- most interestingly -- the author's first name is CARE-ah, not CAR-ah. (Enough about this.)
Montbertrand's an experienced narrator with lots of credits to her name. She has a pleasantly husky voice and keeps the novel moving. Black writes in somewhat short sentences, which can give an audiobook a choppy feel, but Montbertrand goes a long way in smoothing out the narrative.
I like the design for Black's series, published by Soho Press, up until the last three (you can see them here). The blue edging and the black and white (or all-but bleached of color) evocative photos have unfortunately been replaced by a much larger author name, "murder" in red, and a silhouette of Aimée in front of an overly bright "French" image. They've lost their atmosphere. The red M on the cover of the audiobook is that of the Métro de Paris, but it's possible to confuse this with M for murder.
[Wikipedia states that this is a "typical street in the neighborhood, Rue du Sentier." This photo was taken by Mbzt and was retrieved from Wikimedia Commons.]
Murder in the Sentier (Aimée Leduc Investigations, Book 3) by Cara Black
Narrated by Carine Montbertrand
Recorded Books, 2010. 10:54