IMG_0927(Part one) Murder in Pigalle by Cara Black (March 4, 2014 release by Soho Press); excerpt from Soho Press (13 minute read)

New York Times Bestseller Cara Black’s fashionable Parisian P.I. Aimée Leduc has a new look for her 14th adventure: Five months pregnant.

June, 1998: Private Investigator Aimée Leduc has been trying to slow down her hectic lifestyle—she’s five months’ pregnant and has the baby’s wellbeing to think about now. But then disaster strikes close to home. A serial rapist has been terrorizing Paris’s Pigalle neighborhood, following teenage girls home and attacking them in their own houses. It is sad and frightening but has nothing to do with Aimée—until Zazie, the 13-year-old daughter of the proprietor of Aimée’s favorite café, disappears. The police aren’t mobilizing quickly enough, and when Zazie’s desperate parents approach Aimée for help, she knows she couldn’t say no even if she wanted to.

Murder in Pigalle (Part two) (Part one)

… “Monsieur, what’s going on?” The phone clicked off. Her heart thudded. Non, non, she screamed inside. “What did he say, Virginie?”

Virginie’s shoulders were shaking. “An ambulance, but I didn’t understand.”

Aimée fought her terrible feeling. “Neither do I, but I’m going to find out if Zazie’s there.”

“I’m going with you …”

Aimée hugged Virginie. Held her tight. Let go and forced a smile. “And leave a café full of patrons to serve? What if Zazie comes walking through the door?” She hitched her bag on her shoulder. “Do you trust me?” Virginie nodded. “Good. Your place is here. Let me see what’s going on, okay?”

She was out the door before Pierre looked up, hurrying as fast as she could, feeling awkward clutching her bowling ball of a belly. Her damn kitten heels kept catching in the pavement cracks. A taxi passed. Full. Then another. Panting for breath, she tried to wave it down. No luck. No bus in sight. At the corner she saw a taxi parked near the crosswalk. Her shoulders heaving, she leaned through the window.

“I’m off the meter,” said the driver, lighting a cigarette.

“Already did my last run.”

“Then how about fifty francs in your pocket?”

“Against regulations.”

Perspiring, she grabbed her wallet. There were damp rings under her arms. “Overlook the regulations. I’ve got to get to a crime scene.” She pulled out her father’s police ID, which she had doctored with a less-than-flattering photo of herself. “Now.”

Inside the taxi she read him the address from the card of Sylvaine’s parents’ cheese shop on rue de Rochechouart. “Extra if we get there in ten minutes.”

He hit the meter. “I’ll cut over to rue Lafitte. Faster.”

Zazie’s face flashed in front of her. Those freckles, the red curls escaping from her clip, those determined eyes.

“Still on the job, eh? When’s the baby due?” October. “Not soon enough.”

“Wait till the contractions start,” he said, “then you’ll sing another tune. My wife did.”

It never ceased to amaze her how strangers commented on intimate details of her pregnancy, even touched her stomach in the boulangerie without so much as a s’il vous plaît.

Traffic slowed to a crawl on rue Lafitte. She tried to calm her nerves. Maybe she’d jumped to conclusions, overreacted. Think, think where Zazie might have gone on her way home from Sylvaine’s. Maybe she’d visited her friend Mélanie in the clinic? Zazie could be stuck on the bus in traffic. But who had called an ambulance to Sylvaine’s house, and why?

She needed to slow her jumping heart for the baby. Good God, hadn’t the doctor instructed against stress?

And René’s cell phone was going to voice mail. Of all times! But she left him a message to call her.

Seven minutes later the taxi turned onto rue de Rochechouart—a sloping street of Haussmann buildings with uniform limestone facades, grilled balconies potted with geraniums and street-level storefronts. The Sacré-Coeur’s alabaster dome poked up from behind the rooftops. Behind the taxi on the narrow street a block away, an ambulance negotiated its way uphill. She heard the squealing brakes from the arriving blue-and-white police car ahead. Fear flooded through her.

Voilà, Madame, you made it in time,” the taxi driver said.

Not soon enough, she thought, and it was Mademoiselle. But she thrust a fifty-franc note in his hand. Added a twenty, hoping to bank some late-night taxi karma. She hefted herself up from the back seat, struggled to keep the heavy taxi door open on the hill. Just in front, two flics were getting out of their car. Horns blared, and the siren whined in the blocked traffic on the street.

If Zazie were hurt, she wouldn’t forgive herself for not convincing her to leave this alone.

She smelled the cheese shop before she got to the door, where a man wearing a long white apron paced. Aimée racked her brain for the father’s name. Remembered.

“You’re Georges, Sylvaine’s father?”

He looked up. Nodded.

“What’s happened?”

His thick hands flailed in the air. “Sylvaine needs an ambulance. What’s taking so long?” His entire face was pale.

“It’s coming. Where’s Zazie?” Aimée asked.

“My baby, my baby …” Tears ran down his face.

“Tell us what’s happened, Monsieur,” said one of the flics, nodding to his partner. The partner made for the door.

Non, non, Sylvaine needs a doctor. Not you.” Georges blocked the flic’s way. He swung his fist and punched one in the face, knocked the other one down. Was he suffering shock, unhinged?

No time to deal with Georges. Something bad had happened. She had to quell her fear that Zazie might be involved. She stepped around the scuffling flics and into the fromagerie. Coolness emanated from the grey-and-white marble counters and the walls. She would bet each one of France’s 246 varieties of cheese was represented here; cheese filled the cases, displays, every available nook and cranny. The reek of ripe Roquefort made her stomach lurch.

Behind the counter hung a bead curtain leading to a refrigerated back room. The layout was like all old shops, and she followed the hallway leading to the upper-level living quarters.

Breathing hard, she took the narrow stairs to the first-floor hallway as fast as she could. On the dark, wood-paneled landing she grew aware of a woman’s low voice. Followed it past a parlor and down the dim hallway. “Madame?”

She saw a pink T-shirt and an unlaced sneaker on the hall floor. A mounting dread made the hairs on the back of her neck rise. Beyond, she saw into a girl’s bedroom. A woman in a smock—she took her for Sylvaine’s mother—crouched on the floor. “Excusez-moi, may I help?”

“Only the doctor can come in here,” she said, looking up, blinking rapidly. A nervous tic? A gold crucifix dangled from her neck over a white apron. Aimée looked around. “Isn’t Zazie here?”

“Zazie?” The woman looked confused. “You can’t come in. Sylvaine’s not dressed.”

The woman reached for a cloth. Behind her a young girl shivered on the wooden floor, the blanket over her torso not reaching her bare calves. Her jeans were bunched around her ankles. Her blonde hair matted wet to her face. She clutched a ragged teddy bear, her whole body shaking.

Horrified, Aimée noticed the crusted blood on her ankles, the smears on the floor. How could it be? Her mind raced.

Could Zazie have been right all along, that there was a serial rapist on the loose? But how could the flics let such a thing happen in this neighborhood, so safe and quiet? And why to this particular girl, this friend of Zazie’s, where Zazie was supposed to be studying tonight? Her fear almost overwhelmed her. It couldn’t be a coincidence.

Facts, she had to get the facts, not jump to conclusions. She had to calm her thoughts, get whatever information she could from this poor girl. She knelt down on the floor. “Sylvaine, did someone hurt you?”

A brief nod.

“It’s all right,” Aimée said, wishing it was. “You’re safe now. Where’s Zazie?”

“I’m cleaning Sylvaine up,” her mother said. “With some fresh clothes she’ll feel better. Won’t you, ma puce?” She took a washcloth to wipe the smears and blood off those small ankles.

Aimée cringed. Washing away DNA evidence—the last thing she should do. “Plenty of time for that, Madame,” she said, putting her hand on the mother’s shoulder. “We need to leave this. Just for now, okay?” She wanted to search the rooms for Zazie but didn’t dare to leave Sylvaine and her mother alone. What the hell was taking the medics so long? “Sylvaine, can you tell me what happened?”

Sylvaine’s body kept shaking. Her breaths were shallow.

The mother threw off Aimée’s hand, shot her an angry glare, tears streaming down her face. “Don’t tell me how to handle my daughter.” She stroked Sylvaine’s leg. She wanted to make it all go away. As if it could. “We can’t let people see her like this … Defiled.”

Aimée winced at the mother’s word choice. She noticed curled duct tape lying on the floor. Images flashed in her head of the little girl brutally restrained during the attack.

“Did Zazie come over to study with you, Sylvaine?”

But Sylvaine’s eyes had rolled up in her head. Convulsions wracked her, throwing off the blanket. Aimée saw red bruises on her chest.

She clutched her stomach, felt the bile rising. Where were the paramedics? She forced herself to feel for Sylvaine’s pulse. Weak and thin. Her wrist felt cold.

“Don’t touch her,” her mother shouted.

Aimée felt a stinging slap on her cheek.

“Make way,” shouted a medic, bearing the front of a stretcher in from the hallway. Finally. “Give us space.”

Aimée rubbed her cheek, watching the medics checking Sylvaine’s vitals. Her blackened left eye had swollen shut.

“Who let you in here?” a uniform with a clipboard asked her.

“I’m a family friend,” she lied. “We need to find a girl named Zazie—thirteen years old, curly red hair. She’s wearing jeans, has a black backpack …”


She motioned him to the side in the dark, paneled hall. Fading, pale light from the skylight fell in a rectangle on a music stand, which lay on its side in a pool of scattered sheet music.

“Sylvaine, the girl who lives here, has been raped. And Zazie, her friend, was here studying with her, and now she’s missing. We’ve got to search the apartment.”

Georges pushed past the flic. “Zazie never comes on Mondays,” he spat at Aimée. His eyes were wild. “Today’s Sylvaine’s violin lesson.” Georges pointed to the calendar pinned to the wall. The Mondays were marked by blue stickers in the shape of a violin. “That’s why we worked late in the shop—she wasn’t supposed to be home until … When I came upstairs …” His shoulders heaved.

Was there some mistake? Had Zazie lied?

“Maybe the lesson got canceled, and Sylvaine called Zazie,” she said, grasping at straws. “Are you sure she wasn’t here? Didn’t you see your daughter and Zazie come upstairs?”

He shook his head. “Non, Sylvaine always comes in through the side courtyard next door, not through the shop.”

“So you wouldn’t have seen Zazie, or the attacker, as they were coming—”

“We’ll take your report at the hospital, Monsieur,” interrupted the flic, tall and broad-shouldered with short black hair. He gestured to another officer, who escorted the parents down the stairs.

“You are?” he asked.

She flashed her PI badge.

“Ambulance chaser, eh?”

“Call me concerned,” she said. “You need to put out a search for Zazie—thirteen years old, red hair,” she repeated slowly. Maybe he would listen this time. “The girl who was supposed to be here studying with Sylvaine.”

“Didn’t you hear what the father said?”

Aimée shifted on her heels. “But look how distraught he is. He doesn’t know for certain what Sylvaine was doing this afternoon, and Zazie said she was going to be here. What if she’s hiding in the closet or in the cellar?”

“Our team will do a thorough search and question the courtyard residents to see if anyone saw anything. After we assemble the evidence …” He paused, checking his phone.

He wasn’t taking her fear for Zazie seriously. He would be of no help to her.

“What if she was here?” Aimée tried one last time. “What if your team can’t find her? Maybe the rapist took her …” But she couldn’t finish.

“Jumping to conclusions, Madame?” The knowing look he gave her round belly infuriated her.

“She’s a minor, not where she said she’d be. Her parents are frantic; she’s not answering her phone.”

“Sounds like a typical thirteen-year-old. Do you know how many calls like this I got today?” He looked up from his phone.

“If the girl is really missing, her family needs to make a procèsverbal de disparition at the Commissariat,” he said. “After the standard twenty-four hours.”

Quoting the rule book at her? Filing a missing persons report took time. Time they didn’t have.

He nodded to the arriving fingerprint tech with his kit. “Get dusting.”

Incredulous, Aimée wanted to shake him. “There’s a dangerous man, a rapist, on the loose, and a little girl is missing. Don’t you understand? Zazie’s never late—”

“Madame, you’re not being sensible. You’ve been told this girl, Zazie, wasn’t here. Chances are she’s not answering her phone because she’s out with a boyfriend or friends her parents don’t approve of. The parents enlist us, and she comes walking in the door an hour later.”

“Monsieur, I’ve known Zazie since she wore diapers. She’s not like that.”

“Open your eyes. She’s a teenager, boys and parties everywhere.”

He lowered his voice. “If she still hasn’t returned by tomorrow—after the mandatory twenty-four hours—her parents file the report, and the wheels start turning.”

If Aimée’s worst fears were right, tomorrow would be too late, she thought with a sinking in her heart.

As they spoke, she stared at the school exercise books and a violin bow scattered on the duvet. She noted the blue backpack, but not Zazie’s black one. Could the flic be right? Could Zazie have lied to her parents?

A walkie-talkie squawked in the hallway. A uniformed flic tapped the officer’s arm, leaned forward and said something in his ear. The officer’s fingers stiffened on his tie.

He consulted his cell phone again and punched in a number.

Moved to the corner, his broad shoulders hunched. She stepped closer, listening.

“We need le proc,” he said. The Procureur de la République, the public prosecutor.

Aimée heard a finality in his voice. Saw the look in his eyes when he flipped his phone closed.


“Her heart gave out in the ambulance,” he said. “Be careful where you walk. It’s a murder scene.”

Aimée gasped. “Mon Dieu.” She’d witnessed the girl’s last moments. Her insides wrenched. “Then you need to treat Zazie as a missing minor right now.” She flipped open her phone, scrolled to show him Zazie’s number. “She’s using her uncle’s phone. Track the phone pings from this number.”

“You seem convinced she was here.”

“Zazie was following a man she thought had raped her classmate.” She battled the sob rising in her throat. “We can’t just wait for something to happen to her.” If it hadn’t already.

“Her father needs to make a report at the appropriate time. Like I told you.”

“What if Zazie witnessed Sylvaine’s attack?” she said, frantic to make him take action. “Can you rule that out?”

“Our priority’s the attacker. The murderer,” he corrected himself. “Now if you’ll remove yourself …”

“There’s no waiting period to search for witnesses,” Aimée said desperately. “Organize a search for Zazie as a witness to the murder.” He didn’t look convinced. “My father was a flic …”

“Is that supposed to impress me?”

“To let you know I’m no stranger to procedure,” she said. Or your time-consuming bureaucratic regulations, she thought, but she kept that back. Time to name drop. “Commissaire Morbier’s my godfather.”

“Isn’t he on leave?”

Morbier, a man who lived for his job, taking leave? “And I’m Marie Antoinette.”

Something shuttered behind his eyes, and Aimée was gripped by doubt. Did he know something about Morbier she didn’t? Was that why he hadn’t returned her calls?

Her phone trilled. Virginie. Aimée’s knuckles whitened, clenching her phone. What should she do?

Then something inside her kick-started, parted the hormonal fog. She would fix this herself. Zazie wouldn’t end up like poor Sylvaine. Not while Aimée had breath in her body. Time was crucial; it must have been three or four hours since anyone had seen Zazie.

“Found her, Aimée?” A nervous timbre in Virginie’s voice.

“Virginie, listen to me. First say that you’ll listen and just do what we ask, okay?”

“What’s happened to Zazie?”

“We don’t know. Please listen.”

Screaming. In the background she heard Pierre calming Virginie.

Then he got on the line.

“Where’s Zazie?”

She caught the eye of the flic, mouthed please. He shrugged.

“Pierre, I’m handing my phone to a police officer. You’ll need to give him whatever information he asks for.” She handed her phone to the flic standing by her.

Two minutes later, after a one-sided conversation, he passed her back her phone.

Allô? Pierre?”

But he’d clicked off.

“We’ll do what we can,” said the officer. “Now we’re waiting for the Brigade des Mineurs.” The squad who investigated crimes against juveniles. “Give your statement downstairs. Leave your number with the officer so I can contact you. Don’t forget to give him Zazie’s parents’ number, and Zazie’s, too.”

Not the reaction she’d hoped for, but at least he’d taken her seriously. Or so she hoped.

Procedure hobbled the police. But not her.

Outside, quiet had descended over the now-shuttered street.

Nothing open, no shopkeepers to question. She turned to the courtyard entrance beside the cheese shop, deserted except for the arriving crime-scene techs tramping up the rear stairs. The windows of the small, two-story ateliers overlooking the courtyard were dark, and the concierge didn’t answer.

An old man shuffled into the courtyard lugging shopping bags from Franprix. “Bonsoir, Monsieur,” she said. “I’m looking for the concierge.”

“That’s my daughter. She’s away.” He set the bags down on the cobbles and inserted a key in the door.

“Did you see Sylvaine, the cheese-shop owners’ daughter, this afternoon?”


“Sylvaine . . .”

“Sweet girl,” he interrupted. “Today? Think so. Usually she comes through here …”

“And her friend, a red-haired girl? Did you see her?”

He shrugged. Adjusted the hearing aid in his ear. “Speak up, will you? But I can’t say—it’s the World Cup, you know. I’m glued to the télé.”


But she couldn’t give up. “Think back a few hours, if you can, Monsieur. Did you notice anyone or hear anything here in the courtyard?”

“Like I said, I was watching the télé.”

“What about the other residents?”

“Residents? They’re on the beach. Like everyone else. I’m only here because my daughter talked me into collecting the mail for her while she’s gone.”

Merci, Monsieur,” she said, disappointed. For now she’d follow the only other lead she had.

Her phone rang. René at last.

“Where are you, Aimée?”

“En route to the NeoCancan bar,” she said. “In Pigalle.”

“What? In your condition?”

She had to hurry. “I can’t explain now.” Glanced through Zazie’s notes. “Meet me at Thirty-four rue Pierre Fontaine.”

Murder in Pigalle (begin: excerpt – part one)

Praise for the Aimée Leduc series

“Black creates rich, plausible characters, giving them individuality and depth.” — San Francisco Gate

“Wry, complex, sophisticated, intensely Parisian … One of the very best heroines in crime fiction today.” — Lee Child

“[Cara Black] is on to a good thing: each of her novels is set in a colorful Parisian neighborhood—and there are a lot of them. The cumulative result of reading this addictive series is a sort of mini-tour of the city, as seen through a filter of fictional murder … Leduc is always a reliable and charming guide to the city’s lesser-known corners.” — The Seattle Times

“The combination of vividly evoked Parisian neighborhoods and a bewitching, stylish heroine continues to make this series as tasty as a chunk of French chocolate.” — Booklist


Cara Black is the NYTimes and USAToday bestselling author of 14 books in the Private Investigator Aimée Léduc series, which is set in Paris. Cara has received multiple nominations for the prestigious Anthony and Macavity Awards, a Washington Post Book World Book of the Year citation, the Médaille de la Ville de Paris—the Paris City Medal, which is awarded in recognition of contributions to international culture—and invitation to be the Guest of Honor at conferences such as the Paris Polar Crime Festival and Left Coast Crime. With more than 400,000 books in print, the Aimée Léduc series has been translated into German, Norwegian, Japanese, French, Italian, Spanish, and Hebrew.

Cara is included in the Great Women Mystery Writers 2nd Edition, by Elizabeth Lindsay. Her first novel, Murder in the Marais, was nominated for an Anthony Award for best first novel. The third novel in the series, Murder in the Sentier, was nominated for an Anthony Award as Best Novel.

Born in Chicago, Illinois, Cara has lived in the California Bay Area since she was five years old. Before turning to writing fulltime, she tried her hand at a number of jobs: a barista in the Basel train station café in Switzerland, teaching English in Japan, studying Buddhism in Dharamshala in Northern India, and working as a bar girl in Bangkok (only pouring drinks!). She studied Chinese history at Sophia University in Tokyo, where she met her husband, Jun: a bookseller, potter, and amateur chef. Then, she obtained her teaching credential at San Francisco State College and went on to work as a preschool director and then as an agent of the federally funded Head Start program, which sent her into San Francisco’s Chinatown to help families—often sweatshop workers—secure early care and early education for their children. Each of these jobs was amazing and educational in a different way and has helped Cara add fingerprints of her various experiences into the Aimée Léduc books. For more information about Cara Black, visit: (Website) (Facebook) (Twitter) (Interview in A Woman’s Paris – Cara Black’s adventures through the history and mystery of Paris’ quartiers)


Murder in the Marais. Soho Crime, 1998
Murder in Belleville. Soho Crime, 2000
Murder in Sentier. Soho Crime, 2002
Murder in the Bastille. Soho Crime, 2003
Murder in Clichy. Soho Crime, 2004
Murder in Montmartre. Soho Crime, 2005
Murder on the Ile Saint-Louis. Soho Crime, 2007
Murder in the Rue de Paradis. Soho Crime, 2008
Murder in the Latin Quarter. Soho Crime, 2009
Murder in the Palais Royal. Soho Crime, 2010
Murder in Passy. Soho Crime, 2011
Murder at the Lanterne Rouge. Soho Crime, 2012
Murder below Montparnasse. Soho Crime, 2013
Murder in Pigalle. Soho Crime, 2014

Text copyright ©2014 Cara Black. All rights reserved.
Illustrations copyright ©Barbara Redmond. All rights reserved.