Murder in the Latin Quarter is Cara Black’s ninth novel set in Paris, France, and featuring investigator Aimee Leduc. Leduc runs a private investigation firm that belonged to her late father, and each of Black’s novels featuring her are titled after a different section of the City of Lights. Black, an American novelist, does for Paris what another American novelist, Donna Leon, has done for Venice, Italy - created an engaging series with compelling characters and featuring an expert guided tour to their respective cities.
This novel is set in 1997, and Aimee Leduc’s office is visited by a young Haitian woman named Mireille. Mireille claims to be Aimee’s half-sister - a product of one of her father’s trips to Haiti many years earlier. Aimee is taken aback by this revelation but cannot deal with it instantly as she has a client in her office. She makes arrangements to meet later in the day with Mireille at a local café where they can talk freely.
Unfortunately, Mireille is not there when Aimee arrives. Going on evidence she ascertains from their brief encounter, Aimee travels to Mireille’s apartment in the Latin Quarter of Paris. There she discovers the dead body of Professor Benoit, a Haitian scholar who has obviously been murdered. Thus begins another investigation for Aimee Leduc, this time with the dual purpose of finding Mireille and the truth to her claims as well as uncovering the murderer of Professor Benoit. Leduc’s obvious fears are that the two mysteries may be related and that Mireille might be the lead suspect. Trying to stay out of the way of the Paris police, Aimee starts her own investigation, beginning with friends and colleagues of Professor Benoit who, as it turns out, was an expert in water systems.
As Aimee’s investigation proceeds, a pattern slowly emerges, revealing Benoit’s involvement with an organization he consulted for called Hydrolis that has ties to the World Bank. Benoit’s childhood friend, Edouard Brasseur, an import/export dealer, assists Aimee with information that paints a picture of corruption that may have deep roots within Hydrolis, the World Bank, and even the Haitian government. Edouard himself may have been an active Haitian rebel with his own agenda. Another mysterious character, Leonie, Edouard’s aunt, keeps coming up in Aimee’s investigation, and she may have a far more dangerous agenda directly involving Professor Benoit, Edouard, Mireille, and others. The tangled web grows thicker for Aimee.
Assisted by her employee at the investigation firm, Renee, as well as a member of the Paris police and former friend of her father’s named Detective Morbier, Aimee Leduc becomes deeply ingrained in this highly personal investigation and puts her own life in peril as a result. Cara Black deftly throws in many variables to keep mystery readers guessing, from Haitian voudou rituals to human trafficking to rebel slayings. The initial mystery involving her alleged half-sister, Mireille, would have made a compelling work on its own. Black, however, keeps the reader on guard with her intricate plotting and introduction of new characters and plot developments.