Cara Black’s Off the Beaten Path in Paris

If you missed me on That’s How I Blog with Nicole of Linus’s Blanket, I’ve got a treat for you . . . just listen below.

I hope you’re enjoying Detectives Around the World week hosted by Jen’s Book Thoughts.  If you missed my poem about Alex Cross, feel free to check it out.

Today, we have a special guest, Author Cara Black who has a vivid mystery series set in Paris, France. Please give her a warm welcome; she’s a lovely woman, whom I had a chance to chat with briefly at Book Expo America in 2009.

I think a crime novel is the perfect genre to explore the darker side of the City of Light. To visit off the beaten track Paris, not the beret and baguette stereotype. In writing my Aimée Leduc Investigation series, I go to Paris to research. Over the years I’ve built up contacts, nourished by wine and meals in bistros, with several of the city’s private detectives and police chiefs. My contacts have enabled me to build my stories, one for each arrondissement in Paris and ten books so far, with inspiration from real-life cases.

Leduc Detective (Aimée, my protagonist’s Detective agency) is indeed based on the real Duluc Detective agency. This happened one day years ago when I was at the bus stop on Rue du Louvre. Across from me on the street was the wonderful neon thirties sign of Duluc and I’d been interviewing female detectives in Paris and thought why not this agency? I crossed the street, met Madame Duluc who inherited this agency from her father who himself had inherited it from his grandfather who’d started in the Suréte. She was very gracious and told me the history, the cases they work on and much more. I used the agency as a template for Leduc Detective; Aimée had a grandfather who’d started the agency and went from there. But when my publisher suggested we use another name for legal reasons I agreed.

I’ve loved Georges Simenon’s Inspector Maigret and Leo Malet’s Detective Nestor Burma series for a long time. I wanted to see something contemporary set in Paris and wasn’t finding it. Though I’m not French I grew up in a Francophile family in California, my father loved good food and wine, my uncle had studied painting under Georges Braques in the 50’s and life in our house was very much of French appreciation. I went to a Catholic school with French nuns who taught us archaic French and felt a bond, some strange familiarity with all things French as I grew up. That’s partly why Aimée Leduc, my detective is half-American half-French because I knew I couldn’t write as a French woman. I can’t even tie my scarf properly.

People ask me why write about Paris? The history maybe? For me, that’s a big part. My research gives me the chance and a nice excuse to go to Paris and scratch the surface. Dig deep and deeper to understand the quartier, the people who live there, the origins of the quartier such as Bastille with its old furniture making and artisanal roots. Paris holds so many secrets and stories that I want to keep discovering.

For me it’s about the place in Paris; capturing the ambiance, the streets, the rhythm and the flavor that makes it unique. Each part of Paris was once a village and that’s what I’m looking for. I talk with cafe owners, police, people at the Archives, research photos at the Carnavalet museum, take people out for wine and get them to talk. Talk about growing up in the district, or their mother who was born there. I’ve joined the Marais historic society and the Historic society of the 10th arrondissement and met people who share so kindly with me about the place, the way the things are and used to be. Often I’ve gotten lost and that’s the best because then I discover a corner of Paris, an alley, a place I’ve never been before and that becomes part of a book.

Thanks, Cara, for sharing your research, your reverence for Paris, and your inspiration.

Please check out the rest of the festivities this week, here and the schedule at Jen’s Book Thoughts.


Also, don’t forget about today’s tour stops for the National Poetry Month blog tour at SMS Book Reviews and Author Ru Freeman’s blog.


  1. This was a great post, and sounds like another series I need to read. I love stories whose setting steals the show. It’s the only way I get to travel.

  2. Serena – a woman yesterday told me she got her Paris ‘fix’ reading Aimée’s adventures
    and took a trip to Paris without the airfare…that thrilled me! That’s what I’m looking for when I read; travel to other places, learning something new, and of course, fashion tips 🙂

  3. I love all things France too! I’ve never been to Paris though. I agree with Kathy, I want to read these books just to bask in the City of Lights.
    .-= Beth F´s last blog ..Review: The Postmistress by Sarah Blake =-.

  4. This was fun to read, Serena! I’ve been meaning to try one of Cara’s books… I get the feeling I’ll really enjoy the series. I can’t wait to check it out.
    .-= iliana´s last blog ..Book Review: Season of Second Chances =-.

  5. Hello Serena and thanks for hosting me!
    I think everyone should research in Europe!
    Yes, that TweetUp was incredibly jammed!

  6. I agree – French women sure do know how to tie a scarf! I’ll have to read one of Cara’s books just for the setting.

  7. I just love this post from Cara, Serena. It’s so insightful and I learned things about Aimee that I didn’t know before. And you’re right, Cara IS a delightful person. I was lucky enough to win all 10 books from this series and I’m just going to emerse myself in Aimee and Paris! 🙂
    .-= Jen Forbus´s last blog ..A Tale of Two Childhoods =-.

  8. I’m going to tour all of Europe one day for “research.” Seriously! I’ll have to read one of Black’s books at some point. I did enjoy chatting with her at BEA.

    P.S. Loved the show last night. You did great!
    .-= Anna´s last blog ..Mailbox Monday — April 12 =-.

  9. I loved the explanation that “My research gives me the chance and a nice excuse to go to Paris and scratch the surface.” I wonder if I could write a post on French bloggers? (for which I would need to go to Paris to do research!)

    I do have the newest book by Cara Black and am looking forward to reading it!
    .-= rhapsodyinbooks´s last blog ..April 11-17 2010: National Library Week! =-.