Murder in Pigalle by Cara Black Review

A few weeks ago I read Murder in Pigalle by Cara Black for an online book discussion at my local library. It’s time to write my review.

Murder in Pigalle by Cara Black

(*Amazon Affiliate link)

Summary:  Although she wants to slow down her hectic life because of her pregnancy, private investigator Aimée Leduc still rushes to find the missing thirteen-year-old daughter of a friend. She’s afraid the girl’s disappearance may be related to a serial rapist terrorizing the Parisian neighborhood of Pigalle.

Positives:

Setting:

The Paris setting met and exceeded expectations. I was not surprised to learn that  author Cara Black actually tests the routes she writes about in the book. The details about places felt very real.

Protagonist:

Aimée Leduc is half French and half American. In this novel she is expecting her first child and her relationship with its father is complicated, to say the least. I had never read a book with a pregnant protagonist before, especially a private detective. It adds an interesting dimension to the story.

Premise:

The crime is heart wrenching and I really wanted Aimée to find the criminal.

Negatives:

Almost everyone in the discussion group commented on how difficult it was to remember the cast of characters. I finally had to write down a list of names and their roles to keep them straight. Part of the problem might have been that this is book #14 in the series and the author may have assumed we had read the earlier books and didn’t need to be introduced to recurring characters.  All I can say is that other authors have pulled this off much more successfully.

Big Spoiler Alert:

Don’t read any further if you want to read the book. 

Although this book looks like a traditional mystery, it is set up more like a suspense novel. It was disappointing to find out that the perpetrator was briefly introduced on page 193, about two thirds the way through the book. He was not a major character and most of the members of the discussion group admitted that after he was revealed, they had to look back through the text to figure out who he even was.

Conclusions:

Although I liked the Paris setting and the vivacious main character, the flaws in the novel make it unlikely that I will seek out any more of this series.

 

Public Domain Image by Michelle Diagle

#BookBeginnings Among the Shadows by Bruce Robert Coffin

Today I’m reading Among the Shadows by Bruce Robert Coffin for Book Beginnings on Fridays.

Book Beginnings is a fun meme hosted by Rose City Reader blog. To participate, share the first sentence or so of a novel you are reading and your thoughts about it. When you are finished, add your URL to the Book Beginnings page linked above. Hope to see you there!

 

book-beginnings-Gershkowitz

Among the Shadows by Bruce Robert Coffin

(*Amazon Affiliate link)

Summary:  When a retired cop is murdered while in hospice, Detective Sergeant John Byron struggles to find a motive. Why would someone kill a man already so close to death? When second ex-Portland police officer is killed, Byron realizes the cases are linked and that if he doesn’t solve the murders quickly, more cops might die.

First Sentence:

The bitter stench of urine and impending death permeated the small dingy bedroom. Hawk stood next to the bed, looking down at O’Halloran.

Thoughts: 

I have to admit that first bit made me feel a bit squeamish. What about you?

Because we meet the victim and the killer pretty much in the first sentence of the book, this is not a traditional mystery. The publisher calls it a thriller.

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The Friday 56 is hosted by Freda’s Voice. The premise is simple. Turn to page 56 in the book and pick a quote.

 

Retired Detective Ray Humphrey, one of Byron’s oldest and dearest friends, had always said:  “If you find your train derailing during the course of the investigation, the best thing you can do is go back to the beginning.”

Discussion:

I recently watched a webinar featuring Bruce Robert Coffin, who — like his fictional protagonist –is a retired detective sergeant from Maine. I was impressed by what he said during the talk, so I picked up his first two books.  If you like police procedurals,  this is a good choice. You can tell the guy knows his stuff and isn’t afraid to put it on the page.

You can’t tell from the excerpts, but the Portland, Maine setting adds a dimension to the story, too.

What do you think? Would you keep reading?

#BookBeginnings Murder in Pigalle

It has been way too long since I’ve been able to join  Book Beginnings on Fridays. Today I’m reading Murder in Pigalle by Cara Black for an online book discussion on Monday at my local library.

Book Beginnings is a fun meme hosted by Rose City Reader blog. To participate, share the first sentence or so of a novel you are reading and your thoughts about it. When you are finished, add your URL to the Book Beginnings page linked above. Hope to see you there!

 

book-beginnings-Gershkowitz

Murder in Pigalle by Cara Black

(*Amazon Affiliate link)

Summary:  Although she wants to slow down her hectic life because of her pregnancy, private investigator Aimée Leduc still rushes to find the missing thirteen-year-old daughter of a friend. She’s afraid the girl’s disappearance may be related to a serial rapist terrorizing the Parisian neighborhood of Pigalle.

First Sentence:

Paris, June 1998. Monday 1:15 P.M.

Stepping into the shadowed cool of Passage Verdeau, Aimée Leduc welcomed the reprieve from the late-June heat — but not the barrel of the Uzi blocking her way. Stifling a gasp, she clutched her stomach, felt a flutter,

Discussion:

Do you like this beginning?

I do. It gives a sense of the place, the person, and set a tone for the novel, all in a few words.

56

The Friday 56 is hosted by Freda’s Voice. The premise is simple. Turn to page 56 in the book and pick a quote.

 

She had a little life stirring inside her. Part of her wondered what she would do to protect it. And it scared her.

I don’t think I’ve ever read a book with a pregnant protagonist, especially a private detective. It adds an interesting dimension to the story.

What do you think? Would you keep reading?

#amwriting #storyaday May Challenge Complete

You may have noticed I have not been posting much this month.  I have been quiet because I was participating in the StoryADay challenge at Julie Duffy’s blog.

The challenge is an easy one to customize to fit your writing needs. You simply make your own goals to write something regularly in the month of May. My goal was to write 500 to 700 words every single day on any topic I fancied and also to visit the blog regularly for prompts and other inspiration.

On the first day I wrote down a bunch of ideas for projects to work on. Julie Duffy calls them “sparks.” The following eight days I wrote a series of flash stories. As I worked through them I found my writing becoming clearer and more focused. I pushed out the mental flotsam that was jamming my progress and got my process flowing again. At that point I switched to writing a scene per day for a novel that I had started and set aside.

Thank you to Julie Duffy for a productive month. Wish me luck for maintaining the momentum through June and beyond.

Please let me know if you have any questions about the challenge and how it works.

 

Words in a French Life by Kristin Espinasse

When Rose City Reader recently posted an extensive list of novels with French connections, I went looking for my copy of  Words in a French Life: Lessons in Love and Language from the South of France by Kristin Espinasse.

 

The book is a collection of essays — originally written as blog posts –about Kristin Espinasse’s daily struggles and triumphs as an American living in France with her French husband and family. Each essay focuses on a few related French words and phrases that tie together with events that occurred. At the end of each is a glossary explaining each French word or phrase used in the text.

Words in a French Life is an absolutely delightful book to help increase both vocabulary and an understanding of French culture for high school and college-level students as well as adults. Even though I have never studied French, I found it totally enjoyable to read.

If you would like to get a taste of what the book is like and find out more, be sure to visit Espinasse’s blog French Word A Day, which is still active in 2020. As a bonus, on the blog she includes audio clips with pronunciations and gorgeous photographs. What a resource!

#BookBeginnings The Janes by Louisa Luna

So excited to be able to join Book Beginnings on Fridays. I’m reading The Janes by Louisa Luna today.

Book Beginnings is a fun meme hosted by Rose City Reader blog. To participate, share the first sentence or so of a novel you are reading and your thoughts about it. When you are finished, add your URL to the Book Beginnings page linked above. Hope to see you there!

 

book-beginnings-Gershkowitz

The Janes* by Louisa Luna

(*Amazon Affiliate link)

Summary:  The second Alice Vega novel travels to the San Diego area where the bodies of two young women have been found. Lacking identification, one of the girls is clutching a slip of paper with Alice Vega’s name on it. She calls in her partner from a previous case in Pennsylvania, Max Caplan, and together they begin to piece together what happened to the girls while trying to prevent anyone else from meeting the same fate.

First Sentence:

Meet our girl:  seventeen, arrived here a year ago from a rough and dusty town in Chiapas, considered pretty by most standards because she is young, her face unmarked by scars or wrinkles, her body boasting the tender snap of fresh muscle.

Discussion: 

Did you notice the way the author used “our girl” for the victim? It continues throughout the scene, not just in the first line.  I wasn’t completely sure whether it made the reader empathize with the girl or if it created the impression that she was being described by someone who treated her like a possession.

How did it strike you?

56

The Friday 56 is hosted by Freda’s Voice. The premise is simple. Turn to page 56 in the book and pick a quote.

 

The wife tilted back on her heels and then steadied herself. She struggled against the doctor for a moment but then didn’t fight.

In this scene, Cap is watching a couple of suspects.

What do you think? Have you read anything by Louisa Luna?

Recent Reads: Catching Up

Having read a bunch of novels recently, I decided to quickly post summaries of my thoughts before I move on.

Spoilers likely!

The Last Sister* by Kendra Elliot (2020)

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Summary: When Emily Mills discovers a man dead hanging in a tree, she is disturbed by the memories of finding her own father hanging under similar circumstances twenty years before. Her phone call to report the crime to the FBI brings special agent Zander Wells with his partner special agent Ava McLane to the scene. When Zander begins to investigate her father’s death to see if the crimes are related, Emily wonders about her older sister’s involvement and what she really witnessed all those years ago.

Notes:  The Last Sister drew me right in. It was enjoyable not to notice any frayed edges or issues, but just disappear into the story.  There were some interesting twists, most of which were believable. I also like that author Kendra Elliot uses a few law enforcement (FBI special agents) characters from previous novels, but shows them in a different light or brings someone who was a secondary character in a previous book up front to be a main character. It is less confining than a series with only one main character, yet there are familiar faces.

Although I totally get that the crime has to be of a certain type for the FBI to be called in, the hate crime/racism aspect was pretty disturbing.

Love meter:   ♥♥♥♥

Vanished by Kendra Elliot (2014)

 

Summary:   When eleven-year-old Henley disappears on her way to school, the FBI is on the case. Special Agent Ava McLane stays with the family to keep them safe and informed. Police detective Mason Callahan, who was once married to Henley’s stepmom, also arrives to help find the girl, even though someone he knew through work has just been murdered.  As clues are uncovered, Ava begins to suspect that more is going on than a simple kidnapping and other family members may be targeted as well.

Notes:  Once again, it was easy to lose myself in this novel. I liked that the family was a complicated one, with step moms and step dads in the mix. Although they all had the same goal, conflicts still arose because of their histories. The plot moved along smoothly and the characters were for the most part well developed. I liked the romance that emerged, also. It added some spice.

Love meter:   ♥♥♥♥

 

The Lucky One by Lori Rader-Day (2020)

(*Amazon Affiliate link)

Summary: Alice Fine works in a construction office with her dad by day and volunteers with an online group that matches unidentified bodies (“Does”) with missing persons at night. Unlike many of the other members of the group — who started because they have missing relatives — Alice was drawn to the work because she herself was a missing person when she was very young. She was rescued in less than a day, but her kidnapper was never caught. When Alice recognizes a man from a photograph on the missing persons website, she soon realizes he is the one who kidnapped her so long ago. With the help of other volunteers, Alice delves into the mystery of who he was and why he took her.

Notes:  I really like this book. I like that the author was inspired to write it by real events in her neighbor’s life. I like that the amateur sleuths were based on actual volunteers who run The Doe Network website.  I like that Alice’s memories may or may not be reliable, but that her present day narration is reliable.

My only criticisms were that a couple of the male characters had odd character arcs or seemed to get tossed into and out of the story randomly. One example was Jimmy, who was the son of one of the co-owners of the construction business. Jimmy stole Alice’s backpack and hated the fact she secretly owned the business that he thought he would inherit. Except he was in love with her in the end/climax scene?

Merrily’s potential love interest(?), Vasquez, more or less also randomly shows up at the end climax scene. It isn’t clear what his motives are, who he is investigating, and why he keeps popping up except that Merrily needs a guy.

Still, the rest works very well.

Love meter:   ♥♥♥♥♥

The Secret Place by Tana French (2014)

 

Summary:  A teenage student at a boarding school for boys, Chris Harper, was murdered a year ago, but the perpetrator was never found. When sixteen-year-old Holly from the neighboring girls’ school shows up at Detective Stephen Moran’s  desk in the cold case division with a clue, he uses it to join Lead Detective Antoinette Conway of Dublin’s Murder Squad as she reopens the case. Nothing is as it seems, however, as Holly’s friends and rival cliques are determined to muddy the waters.

Notes:  Finally, a Tana French novel to truly love (see my complaints of other novels on the author page). The writing is still gorgeous, as with all the others, but this time the police do their jobs and the ending is satisfying. Yes, Tana French can pull it off.

What is most delightful in this novel is the theme of lies and deception. It is a merry-go-round ride as Moran and Conway try to deceive the girls they interview into revealing what happened and the girls do their best to lead the detectives astray. For that matter, Moran is trying to butter Conway up so he can move to the Murder Squad. Who is lying for the “right” reasons? Perhaps they all are.

Love meter:   ♥♥♥♥♥

Rough Day: Detective Lottie King Mystery Short Stories* by Shelley Coriell

(*Amazon Affiliate link)

Summary: Author Shelley Coriell introduced Detective Lottie King as a minor character in the first book of her Apostles series, The Broken (reviewed here). Lottie was so popular, Shelley decided to write more about her. By the way, Shelley is a bit of a foodie and she includes Lottie-inspired recipes — and drinks(!) — between each chapter.

The stories range from Lottie working with her granddaughter’s Girl Power group to solve a locked room mystery, to helping a twelve-year-old boy find his missing grandfather.

Notes:  Given that this is a collection of short stories, it is easy to put it down between chapters, which I did over a year ago. When I picked it up again, I had forgotten how much I loved Lottie. She plows right in and gets the job done, all the time wearing the most amazing shoes.

I went to see if Shelley Coriell had any new novels out, but her last apparently was another collection of Lottie short stories published in 2017.  Hope that is remedied soon.

Love meter:   ♥♥♥♥

#BookBeginnings Two Girls Down by Louisa Luna

Today I’m looking forward to reading Two Girls Down by Louisa Luna for Book Beginnings on Fridays.

Book Beginnings is a fun meme hosted by Rose City Reader blog. To participate, share the first sentence or so of a novel you are reading and your thoughts about it. When you are finished, add your URL to the Book Beginnings page linked above. Hope to see you there!

 

book-beginnings

Two Girls Down by Louisa Luna

(*Amazon Affiliate link)

Summary:   Two young sisters disappear from a parking lot in a small Pennsylvania town and the police aren’t making any progress. Desperate, their mother hires a bounty hunter named Alice Vega, to search for the girls. Vega enlists a local PI, Max Caplan, to help her. Will the pair be enough to find the girls in time?

First Sentence:

Jamie Brandt was not a bad mother. Later she would tell that to anyone who would listen:  police, reporters, lawyers, her parents, her boyfriend, her dealer, the new bartender with the knuckle tattoos at Schultz’s, the investigator from California and her partner, and her own reflection in the bathroom mirror, right before cracking her forehead on the sink’s edge and passing out from the cocktail of pain, grief, and fear.

Discussion:  A first glance, this seems like a pretty straightforward beginning. When you look closer, however, you begin to notice there’s a lot of information. She has a boyfriend, so she is a single mother. She has a dealer and knows a bartender, so she might have addictions. Plus, she is in a lot of pain.

56

The Friday 56 is hosted by Freda’s Voice. The premise is simple. Turn to page 56 in the book and pick a quote.

 

Cap truly believed there was nothing harder than being a kid. You were always an alien trying to learn the earth rules.

Actually, this is just a random quote that I liked.

I heard good things about this series, so I’m looking forward to giving it a try.

What do you think? Do the quotes draw you in?

What are you reading this week?

#BookBeginnings The Lucky One by Lori Rader-Day

Let’s take a look at The Lucky One by Lori Rader-Day for Book Beginnings on Fridays.

Book Beginnings is a fun meme hosted by Rose City Reader blog. To participate, share the first sentence or so of a novel you are reading and your thoughts about it. When you are finished, add your URL to the Book Beginnings page linked above. Hope to see you there!

 

book-beginnings-Gershkowitz

The Lucky One by Lori Rader-Day

(*Amazon Affiliate link)

Summary:  Alice Fine works in a construction office with her dad by day and volunteers with an online group that matches unidentified bodies (“Does”) with missing persons at night. Unlike many of the other members of the group — who started because they have missing relatives — Alice was drawn to the work because she herself was a missing person when she was very young. She was rescued in less than a day, but her kidnapper was never caught. When Alice recognizes a man from a photograph on the missing persons website, she soon realizes he is the one who kidnapped her so long ago. With the help of other volunteers, Alice delves into the mystery of who he was and why he took her.

First Sentence:

Audrey89:  RE: RE: RE:…This thread is getting long and tedious already and you jerks are starting to repeat yourselves.

Discussion:

Oh yes, I’ve been on forums that were like that.

This section isn’t labelled as prologue, but it begins in front of Chapter One. Throughout the text, the author sprinkles in online discussions, emails, etc. between regular-length chapters.

The idea that a victim can investigate the crime really works.  It is done in a believable way. The online group is based on an actual organization.

56

The Friday 56 is hosted by Freda’s Voice. The premise is simple. Turn to page 56 in the book and pick a quote.

 

When Merrily jolted awake from strange dreams, her mouth still tasted weird.

Technically this is from page 57, because page 56 was an email.

Hum, wonder what Merrily was up to before she fell asleep.

What do you think? Would you keep reading?

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