Review: Haitian scandal, voodoo and family obsession with Cara Black

Murder in the Latin Quarter
by Cara Black
Soho Crime, isbn 1569475415

Just when our detective is set to get down to some normal, profitable work, a woman walks into her office with a story that sets our mystery on a personal track. It’s a tested opening for a detective novel, but Cara Black’s version of it has an originality and freshness that works well. The detective is Aimée Leduc, a Parisian computer-security expert, and the mystery woman is an illegal Haitian immigrant who claims to be Leduc’s half-sister. On her first attempt to get more details from the supposed sister, Leduc discovers the murdered body of a Haitian scientist and realizes that the newcomer may be involved in something more than family genealogy.

The ninth episode in Black’s series of Paris detective novels takes Leduc through a plot involving voodoo, corrupt businessmen, and scandal in Haiti. But it remains rooted in the streets of Paris. Leduc ends up crawling through windows and tunnels, covered in the muck of the City of Light. It’s a good image for the way Black keeps the novels grounded there. Paris may be everyone’s idea of a romantic city, but to those who know it it’s also a place of “diversity”—a nice modern way of saying that there are many awful inequities. “Murder in the Latin Quarter” is a fine way to slap some reality onto those vacation memories and to get a picture of the varied life in the French capital.

As an episode in a lengthy series of novels, there are also intriguing developments in Leduc’s obsession with family--her radical mother abandoned her as a girl, and her policeman father was murdered, so it’s easy to see why she ponders the issue a lot. The possible blood connection to the Haitian woman drives Leduc through the dangers of the book, and by the end it’s clear that the same urge will be eating at her until the welcome arrival of the next novel by Cara Black.

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