Paris during the sticky summer of 1998 is in chaos because of the impending World Cup. Private detective Aimée Leduc is in her office worrying about paying her taxes when her 13-year-old neighbor Zazie comes to see her. Zazie explains that some girls her age, including her friend Melanie, were raped, and that she has a lead on the rapist.
Aimée promises to meet with Zazie about it later that day, all the while planning to warn Zazie’s mother Virginie about her daughter’s sleuthing activities. But Aimée doesn’t make it to Virginie’s until that evening, and by then Zazie is already an hour late coming home. A visit to the friend Zazie said she was seeing turns up another crime scene—Zazie’s friend Sylvaine has just been raped. All of these girls were home alone.
Aimée is convinced that Zazie somehow found the rapist and he took her. But the police think Zazie is a teenage runaway.
In what at first appears to be a side plot, a parolee named Zacharíe is being forced to commit a crime. His client has kidnapped Zacharie’s daughter Mary Jo to keep him from abandoning the job. With Mary Jo was a little friend, Zazie.
Aimée doggedly pursues her investigation despite her condition—she is six months pregnant. Helping her are her partner René and their cyber expert Saj.
I had heard good things about this series but wasn’t really impressed. Although Black may have developed the main characters in earlier books, she certainly doesn’t do much with them here. The book races from action to action, leaving a lot of loose ends untied or ignored. Right from the beginning, Aimée has some photos Zazie tells her were taken using her friend’s telephoto lens. Yet no one follows up by trying to figure out who the friend is. When they eventually find out it is Mary Jo, Aimée spends no effort on finding the girl, just making a few feeble efforts to contact her parents.
Another example—later in the novel, Aimée kills a man in self-defense, then she and another person flee the scene. Yet we never hear about the dead man again.
These omissions all go to my feeling that Aimée’s world is not fully realized. Paris is not much of a presence in the novel, even though Black mentions various locations. We hear, for example, about the dangers of Pigalle, but we don’t really learn what it is like. We don’t really get a flavor of Aimée’s world.