Cara Black

Several years ago, before Cara Black became world famous I sat down with her protagonist, Aimée Leduc, the spike haired, lightly tattooed detective to discuss Paris and her career as a crime solver.

With the impending publication of Cara Black’s 7th Murder by arrondissement I took advantage of a recent trip to Paris to sit down with her protagonist, Aimée Leduc, the spike haired, lightly tattooed detective to discuss Paris and her career as a crime solver.

We met at her favorite bistro, Ma Bourgogne, on the Place des Vosges. Sun filtered through the plane trees, the voices of the children playing in the sandbox mingled with that of the #29 bus hurtling past.  Had we been there 30 or more years ago Inspector Maigret would be sucking on his pipe somewhere under the 17th century arcade.

She arrived a little breathless; short skirt, heels, oversized Vuitton bag and tight black leather jacket. I had my quotidian morning launch, a crème and tartine. After a drag on her Gitane that revealed her chipped fingernail polish Aimée ordered an espresso, set her cell phone on the table and sat back to be grilled.

TG: Have you always lived in Paris?
Aimée crossed her long legs, leaned back in the rattan café chair
and grinned.
AD: I’m a Paris sewer rat born and bred.

TG: Where do you live (arrondissement?)
AD: On Ile Saint-Louis. Technically it’s in the 4eme but you know as one of the first islands settled by the Gauls, we ˜Louisiens” call the
rest of Paris the ˜continent.”

TG: Why?
AD:  Shrug. Well, my grandfather bought the Ile Saint-Louisapartment cheap after the War. He never spoke much about why or how he happened on a whole floor in a 17th century townhouse on quai d’Anjou. I don’t think my father pressed him for details, he liked living on the water. I was baptized in l’église Saint-Louis, attended the ecole maternelle around the corner on rue Poulletier. Came home from school for lunch. But Terrance, the upkeep of an old place is killing me, I can tell you. I’m trying to remodel but the archaic plumbing, old wiring, non-existent heat…my contractor opens a wall and finds a rotted load bearing beams circa 1678.
Another shrug. But I can’t imagine living where I couldn’t walk Miles Davis, my bichon frise on the quai, or knowing the cheese seller on a first name basis, hearing the Seine outside my window lapping on the bank at night,

TG: If you had to live somewhere else which arrondissement would it be?
AD: Not in the suburbs for sure.
Not my style. But I have fond memories of the Sentier, in the
2eme after I got a tatoo there. And those working ladies on rue Saint Denis were always polite and said Bonjour, it’s central.  But there’s a wonderful brocante in Square des BatignollesRue de Levi’s is a great market street and I know a friend who bought an old tire factory off rue Legendre. The 17eme could be a possibility.

TG: Why did you become a detective?
AD: You think I planned it Terrance?
She shook her head, her spiky short hair highlighted with red streaks today. Let’s say I followed in the family business.

My grandfather worked in the Deuxieme Bureau at the Prefecture, when it was still called that. After he retired, they have to retire early you know it’s a rule, he found an office on rue du Louvre, hung his shutter out, in this case a 30s neon sign and took clients. Referrals. A lot of people prefer retired flics to handle their “sensitive matters.”
My Papa, also a flic, was “encouraged” to leave the force after an incident at the Prefecture then joined my grandfather. Good thing, too. Anyway, here I was studying at the Sorbonne and I always seemed to be helping Papa on the weekends doing surveillance, or a little job. Along the way I obtained my PI license, might as well Papa said, and then…
Well, after Papa died, I inherited the business.

TG: What do you most like about your work?
AD: I kept the name Leduc Detective but I do computer security and thank God for my partner, René Friant, a hacker extraordinaire.  Next time,
You’ll meet him, Terrance. He’s in Fontainebleu today, our
troublesome account as usual. Too bad he couldn’t make it.
But I’m one of the only women in Paris who does this kind of work. I
make my own schedule, work all night if I want  as long as I finish the project. Sometimes I dress up, you know, a little undercover to avoid unnecessary questions. In the armoire I’ve got outfits for every occasion, electrician’s overalls, a vintage black Lanvin dress that goes anywhere, a health inspectors uniform, a leather bustier for those ”special” cases.
Smile. I’m my own boss, work the way I want…What’s not to like?

TG: Least?
AD:  Deadlines, clients who need their system up and running five minutes ago.
And people who knock on the door, unannounced, expecting to hire me for criminal investigation.  I tell them I do computer security. Not criminal. I gave that up after Papa was killed in the Place Vendomeexplosion….it’s over.

But sometimes well, not by choice I get involved. I couldn’t say no
to that young woman mired in something awful. Unfair, you know, the flics, who just dismissed her death in the Seine. But it was murder and knowing what I did, I couldn’t let it rest. Terrance, when the system fails, the bureaucrats dictate the rules, I just can’t sit back. Someone has to find the truth, help those who can’t extricate themselves

TG: Who were your professional role models?
AD: Why Irma Vep, of course.
She’s referring to the fictional character created by Louis Feuillade and immortalized in the silent film star Musidora in the silent film classic LES VAMPIRES. I want a catsuit like that.

TG: And Mata Hari. She had tons more depth than people gave her credit for at the time. She almost brought down several governments, a prince’s reputation or two, that’s why they executed her. Too dangerous, knowing what she did, to let her live. She faced the firing squad and refused a blindfold.

TG: And what’s this thing for “bad”boys?
Face it, are there any other kind? I mean to be attracted to.

TG: What’s your favorite café?
La Rotonde, not the one you like in your stamping grounds on the Left Bank. This is a seedy place, well, I prefer to call it full of atmosphere, on the corner of Avenue de Saint-Ouen and rue Lamarck in the 18eme. Locals. Cracked tile floor littered with sugar cube wrappers and old Metro tickets The patron knows me, he helped me out once, a good man, and a font of information in the quartier. Eh well, sometimes I play the horses there. Win more than I lose.

TG: What do you drink when just kicking back at home?
AD: The widow. Veuve Clicquot. That’s all that fits in my small fridge.
Oh and perhaps a small slice of reblochon.

TG: What’s your favorite starred restaurant?
AD:Of course you’re talking about when a client takes me out on his
expense account, right?
Why, L’Ambrosie, of course, a few doors down on Place des Vosges.

TG: What’s your favorite bistro du coin?
AD:Apart from this one? You know the same family has run it for generations, but there’s Café des Chauffeurs on rue des Portes Blanches near the Gare du Nord tracks in the 18eme I always go where taxi drivers eat. They know.

TG: What’s your favorite market?
AD: Marche d’Aligre.
(She’s referring to the oldest running market in Paris in the 12eme.)
There’s a covered market hall, the outside stalls, freshest produce from Rungis, not that I cook much.
Or at all.  But there’s a small brocante at the outer edges. I bought a Balzac first edition there once from a clochard Incredible.

TG: What about Guy, the eye surgeon, a while back who you met…
He’s joined Medecins sans Frontière she interrupts. Anyway I’m not the type to settle down. Just yet.

TG: How has Paris affected your work?
AD:It couldn’t be anywhere else. My clients are here; I bike across the Seine to the office.

TG: How has Paris affected your life?
AD:It’s all I know. I may be half American but this city of light with
It’s dark edges, is my life.

AD:Her cell phone rings on the table, she glances at her Tintin watch. Time to go


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