Murder in the Marais, Cara Black
In this first book of Cara Black’s Aimeé Leduc detective series Aimee must delve into events of WWII to solve a 1990s anti-Semitic hate crime. Each book of the series is set in a different neighborhood and offers a wonderfully vivid sense of its uniqueness within Paris. One of the reasons I enjoy this series is that the central theme of each mystery centers and elaborates upon a historical or social issue.
Murder in Saint-Germain, Cara Black
In book seventeen of Cara Black’s Aimeé Leduc detective series Aimee must hunt for a Serbian war criminal thought to be dead. Is he alive or is she chasing a ghost? Each book of the series is set in a different neighborhood and offers a wonderfully vivid sense of its uniqueness within Paris. One of the reasons I enjoy this series is that the central theme of each mystery centers and elaborates upon a historical or social issue.
A Novel Bookstore
Both a mystery and social commentary, A Novel Bookstore by Laurence Cossé, explores the desire to preserve culture in an era of anti-intellectualism and hyper-consumerism. Francesca envisions a cozy bookstore that only sells good books called The Good Novel, whose stock is selected by a secret committee composed of prominent writers. She enlists Ivan to help realize this dream on Rue Dupuytren. However, they are unprepared for the deluge of hate from readers who feel the premise of the shop implies they have no taste, authors who feel snubbed, and the French publishing world that fears revenue loss. A Novel Bookstore champions artistic freedom and integrity while exploring personal motivations and complex relationships in a beautiful setting. It is filled with references to great literature, both well known and obscure.
A Corner in the Marais: Memoir of a Paris Neighborhood, Alex Karmel
In this expatriation memoir, Alex Karmel tells the story of moving into and furnishing a pied-à-terre, or small apartment, in Paris. Although the many cultural differences are fascinating, I especially enjoyed the tale of his 14th century building, which he traced through historical documents. Karmel also offers a rich history of the Marais neighborhood and its evolution over the centuries. On several of my trips I’ve visited his corner and looked up, offering a little wave.
The Portrait, Antoine Laurain
An antique collector purchases an eighteenth-century pastel portrait of a man at auction, which he believes looks just like him. This sets off a chain of events from which there is no return. Antoine Laurain, who once worked for an antique dealer, describes the objects, their history, and a collector’s quirks and obsessions masterfully. In this, his first novel, he sets his style of presenting flawed but relatable characters at the point of a moral crossroads. There is an air of magical realism in his fiction though it is rooted in the present. I devour Laurain’s books in just a couple of days and think of them for months. This would be a wonderful gift for anyone who treasures antiques.