Category Archives: Cara Black

Sleuth Celebrity Shows ;-)

We’re all familiar with our top fictional sleuths’ skill at solving mysteries. But they have other talents, too, if you think about it. What if those other talents were celebrated? Wouldn’t it be great if the fictional sleuths we like best got their own TV shows, designed to showcase those skills? No, I mean it – it could work. If you’ll park your disbelief in front of the laptop to do some online shopping, I’ll show you what I mean with these

 

Sleuth Celebrity Shows
 

Restaurant Rescue

Struggling restaurants everywhere get a new lease on life as master gourmand Hercule Poirot (Agatha Christie) offers them his singular expertise. Join M. Poirot as he pays a visit to a different restaurant each week, and gives the owner and chef the benefit of his deep knowledge of ambiance, food, wine, and service. The end result? A restaurant and staff that provide an unforgettable dining experience. You won’t want to miss it!

[We hear from our sources that Nero Wolfe (Rex Stout) had been considered for this show, but his spokesman has said that Wolfe would not be taking the role. The spokesman neither confirmed nor denied that Wolfe said the show was ‘flummery.’]

 

Refashion Yourself

If you’ve ever felt you wanted a new look, but weren’t sure where to start, you’ll want to tune in as Paris’ own Aimée Leduc (Cara Black) transforms the ordinary into the extraordinary. Each week, she takes charge of a different lucky client’s wardrobe, and brings it alive with the best in clothes, shoes, outerwear, accessories, and more. She also offers valuable tips to viewers on how to put together simple but sophisticated looks for every occasion. Don’t miss a single episode!

 

Save My Kitchen

Straight from the heart of France’s gastronomic culture, Bruno Courrèges (Martin Walker) brings the Périgord to homes everywhere. Tune in each week as this skilled chef transforms his guests’ everyday meals into something special. With the right ingredients and simple cooking strategies, Courrèges makes even a quick lunch memorable. Each episode brings you a treasure trove of advice for your own kitchen. No more ho-hum meals!

 

Live With Less

The show for people who want to de-clutter and start living simpler, less hectic, and less expensive lives. Let natural living expert Rebecka Martinsson (Åsa Larsson) be your guide to a more sustainable, more budget-conscious, and less frantic lifestyle. Each week, Rebecka visits the home of a different family, and gives them sustainable and inexpensive solutions for clothing, cooking, cleaning, and much more. Each episode teaches easy ways to cut down the waste, tone down the non-stop stress of modern life, and make the most of what nature offers. Don’t miss a single one!

 

The Big Event

Starring one of the world’s foremost entertainment experts, Phryne Fisher (Kerry Greenwood), this show covers everything involved in planning and hosting the perfect event. Each week, Phryne coaches her guests as they put together weddings, reunions, corporate events, and other special occasions. Watch as the guests plan themes, decorations, music, food and drink, and all of the other unique touches that make an event unforgettable. Then, see the event itself, and get some great ideas for your own big day.

 

Pub Crawl

Renowned pub expert E. Morse (Colin Dexter) takes you on a tour of the UK’s best pubs and watering holes. Each week, Morse visits a different local, and shares his experiences. Learn how the UK’s pubs compare on selection, price, quality, ambiance, and much more. Enjoy Morse’s critiques, and pick your own new places to try!

 

See what I mean? These TV shows could really take off, don’t you think? And it would mean our sleuths could earn some welcome extra income. These are just a few of my own ideas. Got any of your own to share?

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Filed under Agatha Christie, Åsa Larsson, Cara Black, Colin Dexter, Kerry Greenwood, Martin Walker, Rex Stout

Tried to Warn You*

It’s hard for people to pay attention to everything. It’s even harder when the message is something one doesn’t want to hear. But those messages can matter greatly. And in crime fiction, those warnings can serve as very important clues. They can also provide interesting character development.

Agatha Christie uses that strategy in several of her stories. For instance, in Lord Edgware Dies, famous actress Jane Wilkinson asks Hercule Poirot to convince her husband, Lord Edgware, to give her a divorce, so that she can marry the Duke of Merton. Poirot reluctantly agrees, and he and Captain Hastings pay a visit to Edgware. Surprisingly, their host tells them that he has already withdrawn his objection. At first it seems that the matter is settled. But later that night, Edgware is stabbed. The most likely suspect is his wife, but she says that she was at a dinner party in another part of London at the time, and twelve people are ready swear that she was there. So, Poirot and Chief Inspector Japp have to look elsewhere for the killer. As it turns out, one of the other characters gives Poirot a warning that turns out to be an important clue to the killer.

James M. Cain’s Double Indemnity features insurance sales representative Walter Huff. He happens to be in Hollywoodland one day when he finds himself near the home of one of his policyholders, H.S. Nirdlinger. He decides to stop in, and see if he can get a policy renewal. Nirdlinger’s not home, but his wife, Phyllis, is. She and Huff have a conversation, and Huff is soon very much attracted to her.  She does nothing to discourage him, and before long, they’re having an affair. Phyllis tells Huff that she wants to kill her husband; she wants to take out an accident policy first, so that she can inherit. Huff is so besotted with her by this time that he falls in with her plan, and even writes the policy she needs. The murder goes off as planned, but now Huff sees that he will have to do everything he can to protect Phyllis, so that he can also protect himself. Then, he meets her stepdaughter, Lola, and they form a friendship. Lola tries to warn Huff what her stepmother is like, and he gradually learns more and more about Phyllis from her. But by then, Huff’s in too deep, and things soon spin out of control…

Along similar lines, in Raymond Chandler’s The Big Sleep, Los Angeles PI Philip Marlowe gets a new client in General Guy Sternwood. It seems that a book dealer named Arthur Geiger sent an extortion letter in which he referenced Sternwood’s daughter, Carmen. Now, Sternwood wants Marlowe to find Geiger and stop him. Marlowe agrees, but by the time he tracks the man down, Geiger’s been murdered. And Carmen is a witness, although she’s either too dazed or drugged to be able to say what happened. At first, it would seem that that solves the Sternwoods’ problem. But not long afterwards, their chauffer is found dead. Now, Marlowe finds himself drawn into the family’s web again. Interestingly enough, Sternwood himself gives Marlowe a cryptic warning about himself and his daughters:
 

‘‘Neither of them has any more moral sense than a cat. Neither have I. No Sternwood ever had.’’
 

That doesn’t give Marlowe all the answers. But it is an important clue to the sort of people he’s dealing with in this case. And that plays its role in the story.

Cara Black’s Murder in the Marais introduces readers to Paris PI Aimée Leduc. In it, Leduc and her business partner, René Friant, are drawn into a murder investigation. It starts when a man named Soli Hecht hires them on behalf of a local synagogue, Temple Emanuel. He wants them to decrypt a code he gives her, and take her results by hand to a congregant named Lili Stein. By the time Leduc gets there, though, Lili Stein has been murdered. Leduc takes an interest in the case, and Inspector Mobier, who’s an old friend of her father’s, concedes that she might have useful information. So, the two agree to work together. This isn’t going to be an easy case, though, and it’s soon clear that it may be related to the past, during and immediately after the Nazis’ World War II occupation of France. One character warns/advises Leduc,
 

‘‘…no-one wants the past dug up.’’
 

And it’s true that there plenty of people in this novel who don’t want Leduc to go digging around in the past. She doesn’t give up, though, and ends up finding out the truth. It’s at a cost, though…

Sometimes, the sleuth tries to do the warning or send the message. That’s what happens, for instance, in Alexander McCall Smith’s The Full Cupboard of Life. In one plot thread, we meet Mma Holonga, who owns a successful chain of hair salons. As a wealthy and good-looking woman, she’s attracted her share of attention, and is ready to choose a husband. She’s narrowed her list to four candidates, and wants Mma Precious Ramotswe to ‘vet’ them, so that she can choose the best. It’s an unusual sort of request, but Mma Ramotswe accedes. One of these candidates is Mopedi Bobologo, a well-regarded teacher who also runs House of Hope, a home for troubled girls. On the surface, he seems very pleasant and steady, if perhaps a bit dull. But Mma Ramotswe learns that he is, in fact, very ambitious, and is likely trying to marry Mma Holonga for her money. Mma Ramotswe tells her client this, in attempt to warn her about the man. But when she does, Mma Holonga has a surprising reaction.

Warnings like that can be used in several different ways, of course, depending on the author’s purpose and the characters. However the author decides to use those warning messages, it’s probably wise for the reader to pay attention. Unless, of course, it’s a ‘red herring…’

 
 
 

*NOTE: The title of this post is a line from Steely Dan’s My Old School.

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Filed under Agatha Christie, Alexander McCall Smith, Cara Black, James M. Cain, Raymond Chandler

Some Things Are Better Left Unsaid*

An interesting quote, attributed to Dennis Lehane, goes this way:
 

‘Maybe there are some things we were put on this earth not to know.’
 

And it’s got me thinking about whether there really are some things that people are better off not knowing. On the one hand, if someone finds out the truth later, this can wreak all sorts of havoc, to say nothing of the breach of trust. On the other hand, there may very well be some things that are best left alone. And it’s not always an easy call to make. Just a quick look at crime fiction is enough to show that.

In Agatha Christie’s The Hollow, for instance, Hercule Poirot gets involved in a murder investigation when he is invited for lunch at the country home of Sir Henry and Lady Lucy Angkatell. He arrives just in time to see that Dr. John Christow, another guest, has been shot. The apparent shooter is standing near the body, holding the weapon. But soon enough, Poirot is left unsure of whether he has really seen what he thinks he saw. He and Inspector Grange investigate, and find that there are several possible suspects. At one point, Christow’s widow, Gerda, says this about their son, Terry:
 

‘‘Terry always has to know.’’
 

She’d rather keep Terry and his sister, Zena, as far away from the investigation as possible, but Terry isn’t that sort of child. And even Poirot hints, later in the story, that Terry will want to know the truth. And there’s a real question about whether children should be told the truth about a parent’s death.

Similar sorts of questions are addressed in Babs Horton’s A Jarful of Angels. In one plot thread of that novel, we are introduced to four children: Lawrence ‘Fatty’ Bevan, Elizabeth ‘Iffy’ Meredith, Elizabeth ‘Bessie’ Tranter, and William ‘Billy’ Edwards.  They’re growing up in a small, isolated Welsh village in 1962. As their part of the story goes on, we slowly learn about some secrets that people in the village are keeping. Little by little, the children learn what some of them are. What’s more, they find that they’re woven into the web of some of those secrets in ways they didn’t know. And that causes its own trouble. In fact, it’s an interesting question whether it would have been better for them not to know. To say more would spoil the story, but Horton address the question in some interesting ways.

Pascal Garnier’s The Front Seat Passenger introduces us to Fabien Delorme. As the story begins, the police inform Delorme that his wife, Sylvie, has been killed in a car crash. What’s more, they tell him that Sylvie was not alone in the car. It seems that she had a lover, and the news takes Delorme by surprise. He can’t resist trying to find out the other man’s name, and he soon does: Martial Arnoult. Delorme also learns that Arnoult left a widow, Martine. Now he feels the need to know more about her; and before long, he’s stalking her. He even follows her and a friend as they take a holiday trip to Majorca, where he begins an affair with her. That relationship spins quickly out of control, and it’s not long before tragedy results. And you could argue that it all might have been prevented if Delorme hadn’t known the truth about his wife’s affair.

In Cara Black’s Murder in the Marais, we are introduced to Paris PI Aimée Leduc. Soli Hecht hires her on behalf of Temple Emmanuel to do some decoding, and deliver the results to one of the temple members, Lili Stein. By the time Leduc gets there, though, it’s too late: Lili Stein has been murdered, and a swastika marked on her forehead. Leduc is a ‘person of interest,’ since she was on the scene, but it’s soon clear that she’s not the murderer. She gets interested in the case, though, and investigates. The answers lie in the past, during and just after the Nazi occupation of France; and those events have repercussions in modern Paris. Leduc finds out what really happened, and we learn the truth. The question is, though, how much she will tell the victim’s son, Abraham:
 

‘‘Aimée,’ Réne[Leduc’s business partner] asked slowly, ‘Will you tell Abraham?’
‘If he asks. Otherwise, I’ll let the ghosts alone. All of them.’’  
 

In the end, it’s an interesting question whether Abraham Stein has the right to know everything about his mother’s death.

And then there’s Kalpana Swaminathan’s Greenlight, the sixth in her series featuring retired Mumbai police inspector Lalli. In this novel, parents living in the small slum of Kandewadi become terrified when some children begin to disappear from the slum and are later found dead. At first, the media and police don’t pay a lot of attention to what’s going on. But after several children have been killed, Inspector Savio is assigned to the case, and he consults with Lalli. Finding out the truth is a slow, painful process, some of that truth is truly brutal and ugly. So Lalli doesn’t tell everyone everything. There are some things she keeps private, even from her niece, Sita, who is part of the team that helps her. In this case, Lalli believes that more harm than good would come from saying too many things to people who don’t need to know them. I can’t say more without spoiling the story, but it’s interesting to see how that question of how much people need to know is addressed.

And it is a good question. Is Lehane right? Are there things we’re better off knowing?

 
 
 

*NOTE: The title of this post is the title of a song by Daryl Hall and John Oates.

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Filed under Agatha Christie, Babs Horton, Cara Black, Kalpana Swaminathan, Pascal Garnier

In The Spotlight: Cara Black’s Murder in the Marais

Hello, All,

Welcome to another edition of In The Spotlight. The scars of World War II run very deep, especially in places like Paris, which played an important role in that war. And some of those wartime events still have an impact today. Let’s look at an example of how that plays out, and turn the spotlight on Cara Black’s Murder in the Marais, the first of her Aimée Leduc series.

Leduc and her business partner, René Friant, own Leduc Detective, a private investigation firm. One day, she gets a visit from Soli Hecht, who has come on behalf of a local synagogue, Temple Emanuel. Leduc’s specialty is computer security, and that’s a big part of why Hecht wants to hire her. He wants her to decrypt a particular code, and take her results to a congregant named Lili Stein. Leduc agrees and gets to work.

By the time she finishes the task and gets to the Stein residence, it’s too late. Lili Stein has been murdered, and a Nazi swastika carved into her forehead. Since Leduc’s at the scene of the crime, she’s certainly a ‘person of interest,’ even though Inspector Morbier (an old friend of her father’s) doesn’t think she’s guilty. Leduc isn’t arrested, but she’s now interested in the case, and Morbier reluctantly concedes that she might be helpful, so they agree to share information.

One very real possibility is that the victim was killed in a hate crime by Les Blancs Nationaux (LBN), a far-right, white-supremacist group. So, Leduc goes to an LBN meeting disguised as a new recruit. She finds out some useful information, but some of the pieces of the puzzle don’t quite fit together. So, she also follows up on the information she was able to decode, to see if the victim had learned something dangerous. And, she investigates the Stein family and its background, to see if there might be a personal motive.

Before long, Leduc sees that this investigation is much more than she’d imagined. She’s warned off several times, and threatened more than once. And it’s soon clear that someone is trying to kill her, rather than let her get to the answers.

In the meantime, there’s tension in the city because of a proposed EU treaty that will set very strict immigration quotas. Representatives from several governments have gathered in Paris to sign that treaty. Many see this agreement as a racist attempt to keep non-whites out of France. Others say that it’s a responsible way to ensure that unemployment rates don’t go too high and threaten the economy. There are marches, debates, and demonstrations on both sides of the issue.

Against this background, Leduc and Friant slowly begin to find out the truth about Lili Stein’s murder. In the end, and after more murder, they learn that it’s linked to a murder in the past, and to wartime events. It’s also linked to contemporary politics.

The book takes place in Paris, and that’s very clear throughout. As Leduc and Friant investigate, readers follow along to several parts of the city, including its underground catacombs, its art museums, and some very upmarket hotels. There’s also a look at some of the not-so pleasant places. Since the majority of the novel takes place in the Marais, there’s an especially close look at that section of the city. The edition I read even includes a map of that area.

The history of World War II, including the Nazi occupation and the weeks and months after Liberation, plays an important role in the story. As the events unfold, we learn about life in the Marais at that time. During the war, Jews are at constant risk, food is scarce, and anyone might denounce one to the Nazi authorities. Liberation isn’t much easier. Those viewed as collaborators are killed or at least brutally treated and humiliated. This, too, leaves long-lasting scars. It’s a harsh environment, and it’s against that backdrop that the older, linked, murder occurs.

Leduc is a private investigator, and Black shows how PIs get their information. Leduc and Friant are computer experts, so she’s an expert at hacking computer systems to find information. The novel takes place in 1993, before today’s WiFi, social media and smartphones, and in one sense, that makes the case a little more challenging. In another, though, it means that it’s a bit harder to trace Leduc.

And that’s a good thing, because there are some very dangerous people who would like nothing better than to stop her. There are several LBN members, for instance, who fear that she’s a threat to them. And there are some very highly-placed people who have secrets she could discover. That’s not to mention the fact that bringing up the past means that some people will have to face things they or their family members did many years ago. And some people don’t want those things made public.

But Leduc is not without resources. She’s smart and quick-thinking, and she knows the city well. She makes use of disguises and ruses more than once, and is in good physical shape. She’s tough enough, too, to get up again when she’s knocked down, if I can put it that way.

This novel has several elements of the thriller. In some places, there are some very fast-paced moments, nick-of-time rescues, and narrow escapes. Danger comes from unexpected sources, and some people are not who they seem to be. It’s not always easy to tell whether someone’s trustworthy or not. There’s violence, too. And, as is the case in some thrillers, there’s some suspension of disbelief involved. That said, though, there are also sections with plenty of description.

The story doesn’t end with someone being led away in handcuffs. Still, I can say without spoiling anything that readers who like to know what happened and who did what will be satisfied. And Black doesn’t gloss over the devastation that murder leaves in people’s lives.

Murder in the Marais is a uniquely Paris story that links past and present. It takes place in an important part of the city rich in history, and features a protagonist who knows that city very well. But what’s your view? Have you read Murder in the Marais? If you have, what elements do you see in it?

 
 
 

Coming Up On In The Spotlight

Monday, 14 August/Tuesday, 15 August – The Cemetery of Swallows – Jean-Denis Bruet-Ferreol

Monday, 21 August/Tuesday, 22 August – Corridors of Death – Ruth Dudley Edwards

Monday, 28 August/Tuesday, 29 August – The Colaba Conspiracy – Surender Mohan Pathak

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Filed under Cara Black, Murder in the Marais