MURDER IN THE MARAIS – Cara Black

MURDER IN THE MARAIS is the first book in Cara Black’s Aimee Leduc series.  Cara based the book on the experiences of a relative of a friend who lived in Paris during the occupation by the Germans during World War II.  The Marais was the Jewish quarter.  It is a fictionalized account of many of the same experiences related by the survivors in A TRAIN IN WINTER.

Paris, November 1993

Aimee Leduc and her partner, Rene, are building a reputation and a client base for their computer security business.  One day, an old man comes to the office asking Aimee to locate a woman,  decipher a code, and bring the results to Lilli Stein.  Soli Hecht overrides Aimee’s objections by telling her that he knew her father, killed five years earlier, and that her father had promised him that he could go to Aimee whenever he needed help.  What can Aimee do?  She agrees to his request; he leaves telling her that the arrangement has never been made , they have never met.

As Aimee examines the code Soli had left with her, she recognizes that some of the symbols show the work of Israeli intelligence.  Cold war problems are not something with which she wants to be involved, but her father made a promise and Aimee will honor it.

The document Aimee uncovers is a fragment of a war-time photograph of a Paris street scene taken during the occupation.  She doesn’t know what this means to Lilli Stein but she had promised Soli she would place it in Lilli’s hand so she goes to the Marais, the old Jewish section of Paris.  She arrives too late.  Lilli is dead.

Paris in 1993 is a microcosm of what is bad in societies that do not accept responsibility for  atrocities  committed in its name and of what happens when too little attention is paid to the past.  As Aimee tries to discover Lilli’s killer, she is impeded by the street demonstrations of white supremacists who attack people with darker skin.  A neo-Nazi movement is gaining strength as anti-semitism comes out of hiding.  And in the middle of it all is a meeting of the trade ministers of the EU countries.  Hartmuth Griffe is the glue that will hold the new agreements together and he has his orders.  His life is controlled by the group that uses Unter Den Linden as their password for it is under the linden trees in Berlin where they will meet to establish the new Fascism.  Griffe has been in Paris before.  He was in Paris when he was a teen-age soldier working to remove Jewish families from France to the camps of eastern Europe.  It was in Paris that he fell in love with another teen-ager, a beautiful Jewish girl.  He had provided her with food and saved her from the camps but war had sent him to the eastern front.  Was she alive and in Paris, too?

Life in the Marais during the occupation was one of desperation and fear and hunger. Petty jealousies led to denunciations.  Families disappeared and their apartments became the property of some of those who had envied them.  Teenagers, barely more than children, learned to survive by being willing to do whatever was necessary to live till  the next day.

MURDER IN THE MARAIS is  a love story, a punishing look at twentieth-century society, and a trip to the lowest point in French history.  Cara Black has written a thriller, a mystery, and a history, a story of people who weren’t ennobled by sacrifice but used circumstances to enrich themselves even if it cost someone else their life.  And, still, there were those who loved their enemy.

This is the first book in the successful Aimee Leduc series.  MURDER IN THE MARAIS is so strong that it is no surprise that subsequent books have been welcomed by fans.

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1 Response to MURDER IN THE MARAIS – Cara Black

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