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Murder in Passy : An Aimee Leduc Investigation Set in Paris
The village-like neighborhood of Passy, home to many of Paris's wealthiest residents, is the last place one would expect a murder. But when Aimee Leduc's godfather, Morbier, a police commissaire, asks her to check on his girlfriend at her home there, that's exactly what Aimee finds. Xavierre, a haut bourgeois matron of Basque origin, is strangled in her garden while Aimee waits inside. Circumstantial evidence makes Morbier the prime suspect, and to vindicate him, Aimee must identify the real killer. Her investigation leads her to police corruption; the radical Basque terrorist group, ETA; and a kidnapped Spanish princess.
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March 01, 2011
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Excerpt from Murder in Passy by CARA BLACK
Monday Early Evening
The doorbells tinkled as Aimee Leduc stepped inside the cheese shop from the cold and inhaled the warm, pungent odors. A radio blared the evening news: ". . . evading seven roadblocks erected after the shootout in the Imprimerie Nationale documents heist. In other breaking news, a radical faction. . . ."
She shivered, nodding to pink-faced, rotund Victor, standing in his white apron behind the counter. Bombings, shoot-outs, she hated to think what else--and to make it worse, just before the holidays.
"World's gone crazy." Victor shook his head. "The usual?" He gestured to a runny rind on grape leaves standing on the marbletopped counter: "Or this?"
Aim�e tasted the Brie dripping on the white waxed paper. "C'est parfait."
She emerged from the shop into the evening mist and rounded the corner toward her office on rue du Louvre. The reflections of the furred yellow orbs of streetlights glowed on the wet pavement.
"About time, Leduc." Morbier, her godfather and a police commissaire, his black wool coat beaded with moisture, paced before her building door. An unmarked Peugeot with a driver, engine thrumming, waited at the curb.
"More like five minutes early, Morbier." The chill autumn wind cut a swathe through the street of nineteenth-century buildings. Passersby hurried along, bundled in overcoats.
A look she couldn't read crossed his face. "We've got a situation in Lyon. I'm late. You've got the file, Leduc?"
Forget the aperitif she'd expected in the corner cafe! She brushed away her disappointment. So they would do the exchange in the cold, wet street. She handed Morbier a manila envelope containing the supposed ten-year-old letters and photo of her "brother" Julian. It was time to let the professionals handle the only copies she had, so she could find out once and for all if they were genuine. "A week for lab authentication, Morbier?"
In return, he showed her an engraved business card reading police paper forensics division head paul bert. "Bert's the leading forgery expert. That's all I know."
She nodded; she couldn't push it. He was doing her a favor. "Time for a quick espresso?" She pointed to the lit windows under the caf�'s awning, which was now whipping in the wind.
Morbier shook his head. Under the thick salt-and-pepper hair, his face appeared more lined in the streetlight; dark circles showed under his eyes. "You think life finally makes sense, then . . . alors," he shrugged. "Pouff, it turns upside down."
"What's wrong, Morbier?" She wished they were inside the warm cafe with its fogged-up window instead of standing in the wind. A siren whined in the distance. "A case?"
"Can't talk about it, Leduc."
As usual. The streetlight revealed his cuffed corduroys, his mismatched socks, one brown, one black. Morbier was no fashion plate. He hadn't made a move toward his car. Unlike him.
She sensed something else bothering him. His health? "Did you have that checkup like you promised?"
"Something's going on with Xavierre," he said. "I'm worried."
Taken aback, Aim�e fumbled for something to say. She remembered him with his arm around Xavierre, an attractive older woman with dark hair. Xavierre's laughter, warm smile, and scent of gardenias came back to her.
"Worried over what?"
"She doesn't answer her phone," he said.
"Zut! I don't either, half the time," she said. "You're reading too much into it."
"I need to know what's going on."
She'd never seen him like this, like a lovelorn shaggy dog. It was not often that he shared his personal feelings.
"Her daughter's getting married soon, non?" Aimee rubbed her hands, wishing she'd worn gloves. "You told me yourself last week. She's busy." A cloud of diesel exhaust erupted from the Number 74 bus as it paused to board passengers.
"Xavierre's holding back," he said. "Something feels wrong, Leduc. When my gut talks, I listen."
"Like what? You're thinking she's in danger?"
"She's fond of you," Morbier said. "Help me out, eh?"
He hadn't answered her question. "But what can I do?"
He pulled a police notepad from his coat pocket and wrote down an address. "Do me a favor. Her daughter's wedding rehearsal party's tonight. Go there and talk to Xavierre. She'll open up to you. If I hadn't gotten called away to this investigation--"